United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General meets Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Chairperson of the Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO

On 14 October 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, received Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmão at UNESCO Headquarters.

Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmão is the wife of the first President of Timor-Leste, Mr Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, and current Prime Minister of the country. She established the Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO, which she also chairs.

The Director-General congratulated Ms Sword Gusmão for launching the National Commission on 23 April 2009, welcoming the participation of the new body in both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Culture. Mr Matsuura also paid tribute to the support provided by Ms Margaret Austin, former Member of Parliament of New Zealand, in terms of capacity building. He applauded the progress made so far in the functioning of the new National Commission, welcoming the commitment made to strengthen cooperation with other Commissions in the region.

In his discussion with Ms Sword Gusmão, the Director-General presented the Timor-Leste-UNESCO Country Programme Document, which had just been finalized and printed. Elaborated with the support of the Jakarta Office, this document defines UNESCO’s strategic interventions in Timor-Leste for the next five years.

Among the urgent needs facing the country, the question of language policy was highlighted, including the promotion of education in mother tongue. The Director-General confirmed that literacy would continue to receive support in the next biennium at UNESCO. In the field of heritage, the Director-General encouraged Timor-Leste to start the procedure to ratify the 1972 World Heritage Convention and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. After the ratification, Timor-Leste should prepare a tentative list of cultural and natural properties, which is a preliminary step to the nomination for inscription of properties on the World Heritage List. UNESCO could also assist in the identification of intangible heritage using the intangible Heritage Fund, once the 2003 Convention is ratified. The Director-general also took note of the needs expressed in the field of science education.

Finally, Mr Matsuura congratulated Ms Sword Gusmão for the joint project with UNESCO to establish a National Museum. This project, entitled “Rebuilding Social Cohesion of Communities through National Museum of Timor-Leste and Cultural Heritage Education” had been developed with the Ministers of Education and Culture and donors were currently being approached, including from the private sector. Mr Matsuura expressed his hope that the project would soon be up and running, saying that this would be an important step forward for building stability and peace in the region.

Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 205-2009 -  Publication Date: 19-10-2009

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