Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had convened world leaders to advance the global agenda on climate change and build momentum for the talks to be held in Bali in December. At a reception preceding the opening ceremony, the Director-General was able to greet a number of Heads of State and Government.
Later the same day, at the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, Mr Matsuura attended a Global Health and Literacy luncheon hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, who paid tribute to the series of regional literacy conferences UNESCO is organizing in follow-up to the White House Conference on Global Literacy held last year. The luncheon also provided an opportunity for Mr Matsuura to talk with the First Lady.
In the afternoon, the Director-General visited the New York Tolerance Centre and participated in the ceremony to launch the volume of essays in memory of Simon Wiesenthal. In his intervention, Mr Matsuura highlighted UNESCO’s past cooperation with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and underscored the importance of the Organization’s work in the revision of textbooks for unbiased history teaching in promoting tolerance and mutual understanding. In closing, the Director-General expressed his hope that the book of essays “will be useful to individuals, institutions and states in eliminating the scourge of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance that have left their terrible imprint on all too many pages of the history of humanity”.
At an event marking UNESCO’s partnership with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), Mr Matsuura underlined the importance of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, under which 851 sites are protected in 141 countries, and explained how the conservation process relies on the active development of partnerships with national governments, the general public, the private sector, the media and with the scientific and research community. Together, AMNH and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre have created World Heritage Expeditions, a new travel series exploring the ongoing efforts for the conservation and preservation of some of the world’s outstanding cultural and natural sites. The Director-General expressed his delight at this new partnership aimed at increasing public awareness of, involvement in and support for long-term sustainable management practices at World Heritage sites; and to promote the development of effective capacity-building measures through programmes designed to address global conservation concerns.
On 23 September, taking advantage of his stay in New York, the Director-General hosted an informal meeting for Heads of the five large Specialized Agencies – ILO, FAO, WHO and UNIDO in New York. The Directors-General discussed recent new initiatives, such as the MDG Africa Steering Committee of the Secretary-General and the drafting of a common UN system strategy for action in response to climate change.
Later the same day, Juan Somavia, Director-General of ILO, Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Mr Matsuura met, at the latter’s initiative, the Executive Heads of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and WFP to discuss issues of common concern with regard to the UN reform process. It was the first time that the Heads of Specialized Agencies had held an informal discussion with the Heads of ExCom Agencies. One of the agreements reached at the meeting concerned the importance of the quality, skills and knowledge of Resident Coordinators for the success of any reform at the country level and for ensuring coherent action among UN agencies. Moreover, with respect to reform of the inter-agency mechanisms, there was a strong sense that UNDG should be merged into CEB, thus creating a single framework for inter-agency cooperation. At both meetings, the Heads of Agencies also discussed progress regarding the conduct of the “delivering as One” pilots as well as measures to improve their implementation.