Director-General of UNESCO visits the Republic of the Maldives

Director-General of UNESCO visits the Republic of the Maldives
  • © UNESCO/ Amita Vohra

Mr Koïchiro Matsuura paid his first official visit to the Republic of the Maldives from 1 to 2 May 2006. He is the first UNESCO Director-General ever to visit the country since it joined the Organization in July 1980.

Upon his arrival, the Director-General was received by Mrs Zahiya Zareer, Minister of Education and Chairperson of the Maldives National Commission, who hosted a dinner in his honour that was attended by various Ministers, including the Minister of Information and Arts, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Water, the Minister of Planning and National Development, the Minister of Construction and Public Infrastructure, and the Minister of Gender and Family, as well as senior officials of the Government and members of the National Commission. Preceding this dinner, discussions took place between the Ministers and Mr Matsuura to take stock of the existing bilateral cooperation between the Maldives and UNESCO and to seek ways and means to further enhance this partnership as well as to identify other areas of mutual interest in which UNESCO’s assistance and cooperation, notably through its Office in New Delhi, would be vital.

In his bilateral meeting with Mrs Zareer, the Director-General noted with appreciation the Maldives’ efforts to upgrade educational standards and applauded the fact that the country had achieved universal primary education. Mrs Zareer informed Mr Matsuura of the various challenges in education that would necessitate the Organization’s assistance and technical advice, such as in non-formal and inclusive education, technical and vocational education, early childhood education as well as quality education and teacher training. In response to this call for support, the Director-General announced UNESCO’s readiness to help the Maldives in teacher training, particularly through distance education, and said that the UNESCO New Delhi Office would assist the Ministry of Education in the formulation of an appropriate project proposal to be financed by UNESCO’s extra-budgetary resources. The Director-General also told Mrs Zareer that the UNESCO offices in New Delhi and Bangkok would be ready to provide if necessary their technical assistance to the Maldives in the preparation of its new Education Master Plan as well as in the establishment of the country’s first University. Mrs Zareer welcomed and expressed her deep appreciation for this support.

During his discussions with Mr Uz Mohamed Nasheed, Minister of Information and Arts, the Director-General was briefed about the situation of the country’s communication/information sector, including the Government’s engagement in formulating policies and the necessary legal framework towards the liberalization of mass media. He focused on the sense of responsibility of journalists and requested UNESCO’s assistance in training of media professionals in investigative journalism, feature writing and election coverage. Mr Matsuura welcomed the measures taken by the Government and underlined the importance of enhancing the quality of journalism and broadcasters as crucial elements for national development. He referred to UNESCO’s new cooperation with the Maldives, through IPDC, in reinforcing community broadcasting, and affirmed the Organization’s readiness to help in setting up a Community Media Centre (CMC) in the Maldives and in the training of journalists. Mr Nasheed thanked the Director-General for his support and added that his Ministry, together with the UNESCO New Delhi Office, will work out the modalities of cooperation.

The Director-General also met with Mr Ahmed Abdullah, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Water, who expressed his hope that the Director-General’s visit to the Maldives would open up new opportunities to maximize the existing partnership between UNESCO and the country in the area of the sciences, in particular in regard to the environment, the escalating problems of which are a major concern to the Government especially since the December 2004 tsunami. He suggested that UNESCO’s closer cooperation would be required in national capacity-building in the sciences and in the development of renewable energy sources. The Director-General assured the Minister of UNESCO’s readiness to support and assist the Maldives in the preservation and protection of the environment and in this regard encouraged Mr Abdullah to submit natural World Heritage sites candidatures for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List as well as propose sites for biosphere reserve designation within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The office in New Delhi will collaborate with his Ministry in providing all the necessary technical expertise in the preparation of these nomination files, Mr Matsuura said. He also asked the Minister to encourage students to apply for UNESCO’s Fellowships Programme, particularly those in the field of the sciences.

In his meeting with Mr Hamdhoon Hameed, Minister of Planning and National Development, the Director-General said that the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System will be operational in July this year. However, he also underlined the importance of establishing a national warning system for the Maldives and said that a UNESCO/IOC national tsunami assessment mission will take place this year aiming at, inter alia, assessing the available resources, identifying capacity-building needs and promoting the establishment of a national coordination committee involving the widest possible group of stakeholders.

During his visit, the Director-General went to see the Old and the New Friday Mosques, the Sea Wall and the National Disaster Management Centre. At the Ghiyasuddin School, several members of the National Commission for UNESCO made a presentation to the Director-General of the Maldives’ sector priorities. Students of the school also performed a cultural programme.

As the President of the Republic of Maldives, H.E. Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was out of the country at the time of the Director-General’s visit, their bilateral meeting unfortunately did not take place.

  • Source:Flash info n°068-2006
  • 08-05-2006
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