Director-General visits the Republic of the Philippines

Director-General visits the Republic of the Philippines

From 22 to 24 May 2006, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, undertook his second official visit to the Republic of the Philippines, on the occasion of the 31st World Congress of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). In the 58-year history of the ITI, the Philippines is the first South-east Asian nation to host the ITI World Congress.

In his meeting with H.E. Ms Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic, the Director-General congratulated her for hosting the 31st ITI World Congress in Manila. While recalling the President’s participation in the 33rd session of the General Conference in Paris in 2003, Mr Matsuura thanked her for being one of the first Heads of State to support the concept of “knowledge societies”, promoted by UNESCO. President Arroyo commended Mr Matsuura for basing the theme of the ITI on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which, she said, shaped the policy in her country’s Medium-Term Development Plan. She also applauded the Director-General for UNESCO’s efforts to address poverty and cultural diversity and thanked him for UNESCO’s support in the preservation of her country’s cultural heritage. Mr Matsuura paid tribute to President Arroyo’s initiative on interfaith dialogue underscoring the importance of promoting interfaith and multi-cultural dialogue. The President expressed her gratitude to Mr Matsuura for strongly supporting the Philippines’ debt relief scheme, which had been proposed to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN. The Director-General informed the President of his decision to set up a Working Group to address the issue of debt swap for the benefit of the developing countries, with a focus on education in the first instance.

Following the meeting, President Arroyo hosted a dinner in honour of the Director-General that was attended, among others, by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and senior dignitaries participating in the Congress, including Mr Ong Keng Yong, ASEAN Secretary-General and Dr. Essop Goolam Pahad, Minister in the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa.

During the visit, Mr Matsuura met with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr Alberto Romulo, who is also the Chairperson of the National Commission of the Philippines for UNESCO. On this occasion, Mr Romulo expressed his appreciation for UNESCO’s funding support, including for the Leaders Forum and Colloquium of the ITI World Congress, as well as for the release of funds in emergency assistance to the international relief and rehabilitation efforts following the 17 February 2006 landslide disaster in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte. He also thanked the Director-General for extending the Organization’s support towards the Philippines World Heritage Sites as well as to the preservation of the country’s intangible cultural heritage, including the Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao and the Darangen Epic of the Maranao People of Lake Lanao, which were proclaimed as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In this regard, Mr Matsuura informed Mr Romulo that the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage entered into force on 20 April 2006 and 48 countries were already State Parties to this Convention. He encouraged the Philippines to ratify the Convention as soon as possible. He further informed that UNESCO would convene the first General Assembly of State Parties to the Convention in Paris in June 2006. Mr Romulo, in his reply, assured the Director-General that the ratification of the said Convention would be given utmost priority. The Director-General encouraged the Philippines to combine its initiative to promote inter-faith dialogue with UNESCO’s global efforts in support of the dialogue among civilizations. In addition, Mr Matsuura met with Cabinet Secretaries and other Senior Government officials in a joint meeting presided by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr Romulo to take stock of UNESCO’s collaborative work with the Philippines and to chart future directions on UNESCO-related issues with the Philippines. He also visited the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, one of the country’s oldest churches which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Director-General participated in the Opening Ceremony of the 31st World Congress of the International Theatre Institute and chaired the Leaders Forum, in which nine renowned international experts from five continents shared their views on how cultural diversity can be harnessed to achieve the MDGs. In his opening remarks, the Director-General said “the arts, and more specifically the performing arts, help people to communicate and express their culture, their differences as well as their similarities. Theatre, in particular, provides a special vehicle for enhancing intercultural understanding and co-existence by acknowledging the diversity and the complementarity of cultures. UNESCO recognizes that theatre and arts education can stimulate communication and promote understanding and awareness of crucial issues, such as respect for human rights, health and other development concerns”. The Forum concluded with a statement that vowed to continuously carry out arts-based initiatives that will fight global poverty and promote education and gender equity. Mr Matsuura also opened the Theatre Olympics of Nations being held in Manila.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Jose de Venecia, conferred the Congressional Medal of Achievement on the Director-General in the presence of high-level Filipino and foreign participants from 90 countries who were attending the Leaders Forum. He received the Medal for his contributions to promoting culture and international peace and understanding through the arts. The Speaker said that the Director-General is one of highest UN officials to endorse the debt-for-equity programme, which seeks to convert half of the foreign debt of some 100 debt-saddled nations into equity to fund projects aligned with the MDGs.

In a traditional academic ceremony, the Director-General received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Santo Tomas, the country’s oldest existing university.

  • Auteur(s):Flash Info n°082-2006
  • Source:Flash Info n°082-2006
  • 30-05-2006
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