The visit was inscribed within the framework of the three week-long celebration marking 64 years of cooperation between UNESCO and India.
In the morning of 11 November, Mr Matsuura was invited as Guest of Honour to participate in the celebrations of India’s National Education Day to commemorate the achievements of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a great freedom fighter, an eminent educationist and the first Union Minister of Education of India. The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, was the Chief Guest for this occasion. Also present at this event were Minister Sibal and Shrimati D. Purandeswari, Minister of State for Human Resource and Development.
In his address, the Director-General described how proud UNESCO was to have accompanied India in its progress towards Education for All (EFA) and paid tribute to the country’s courageous efforts to expand access to basic education following the second World Conference on EFA, held in Dakar 2000. He also applauded India’s pro-active role in promoting international cooperation in EFA, “in particular among countries of the South, helping to share good practices, build partnerships, and encourage policy dialogue on key issues”.
In the afternoon of the same day, Mr Matsuura was conferred the distinction of Doctoris Honoris Causa from the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) of the Government of India in the presence of Minister Sibal. In his acceptance speech, the Director-General stated that he sees ‘this award as going beyond my own person to pay tribute to everything that UNESCO and India have achieved together in the field of education”. Although NEUPA is fully sponsored by the Government of India, it will still continue to cooperate closely with UNESCO. In this light, Mr Matsuura announced that NEUPA will soon host the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, which is the first specialized Category I Institute to be created in the Asia and Pacific region. He also said that “UNESCO very much looks forward to the findings of the interdisciplinary study NUEPA is conducting on the economical and social impact of the rapid expansion of higher education in the largest emerging economies of Brazil, China and India”.
Later on that day, Mr Matsuura, together with the Chief Minister of Delhi, Shrimati Sheila Dikshit, launched the UNESCO Commemorative Medal Programme in India, designed to raise global awareness of the preservation of World Heritage sites through the sale of gold, silver and brass medals portraying views of outstanding sites from all over the world. Mr Matsuura encouraged the Government to continue its efforts to promote cultural heritage through ensuring that the country’s Tentative List of Heritage Sites is fully representative of the diversity of India’s cultures. He said that “it would be interesting to see more vernacular and rural heritage being put forward, as well as cultural spaces of tribal people, which bear considerable symbolic and spiritual significance without necessarily possessing impressive monuments”.
Finally, the Director-General inaugurated the Consultation Meeting of National Commissions of the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka). Advocating that the involvement of the National Commissions must be further enhanced in United Nations Country Team (UNCT) activities, Mr Matsuura expressed the hope that the Secretaries-General would be able to convince their respective Governments to examine the role National Commissions can play in driving forward the United Nations’ “Delivering as One” process through joint programming.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 230-2009 - Publication Date: 13-11-2009