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Director-General visits the Republic of the Marshall Islands

05-08-2005 - On 2 and 3 August the Director-General paid his first visit to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

This was also the first visit of a Director-General of UNESCO to the country and it coincided with the 10th anniversary of the countryís accession to the Organization. The visit also concluded the Director-Generalís tour of the Micronesian part of the Pacific.

Discussions with the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Kessai Hesa Note, focused on how to give further impetus to the existing partnership as well as to develop and expand new spheres of cooperation. The Director-General underscored that although education and culture remained the founding pillars of the bilateral cooperation, opportunities were also to be seized in the area of the sciences.

In the field of education, which is one of the most important sectors in the RMI, the Director-General noted that the country faced the problem of quality education, namely in teaching. Like most Pacific Nations, particularly in the Micronesian sub-region, lack of qualified teachers is a growing concern. He informed the President that UNESCO, through the Apia Office, had already initiated a region-wide project aimed at supporting Pacific teachers by improving academic qualifications and teaching skills. He now intended to establish a country-specific project in capacity-building for RMI, in order to better cater to the individual needs of the country.

With regard to culture, the President informed the Director-General that the Government had established a Customary Law and Language Commission with a view to preserving the Republicís cultural heritage. The Director-General welcomed the initiative and explained that it fell within the Organizationís mission to help preserve cultural diversity through the follow-up to the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Emanating from this Declaration, the Director-General added, is the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. He urged RMI to ratify the Convention in order to place the country on the international map of intangible heritage.

To open a new horizon of partnership between UNESCO and the RMI, the Director-General explained that the Organization had taken a lead in matters involving the oceans and he encouraged the country to become a member of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). In this way it would be able to participate actively in the promotion of international cooperation for the development of programmes and research, services, and capacity-building for the improvement, management and protection of the marine environment.

The President expressed his appreciation for all the encouragement received and the support offered by the Director-general and added that he looked forward to closer and continuing collaboration with UNESCO. As a token of his appreciation, the President invited the Director-General to attend, following their discussions, the opening ceremony of the RMIís 5th Annual Conference of Leaders in order to introduce him to the mayors of the different states of the country.

The Director-General also conducted bilateral talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gerald M. Zackios, who underlined the fact that that the Director-Generalís visit will give a strong impulse to the strengthening of UNESCOís partnership with the RMI and help enhance the Organizationís visibility in the national and sub-regional contexts. He also explained that RMI shares the same needs in education and culture with Africa and other nations in Asia. As some 60% of the population in the RMI is under the age of 20, the Minister appealed for UNESCOís assistance in the Governmentís initiative to be creative in its efforts towards formal and non-formal education. He remarked that preservation of culture creates stability and good governance within a country and he thanked the Director-General for the full support received in this field, in particular through the organization of a series of World Heritage projects and workshops designed to inter alia enhance World Heritage awareness and assist in the development of a Tentative List of cultural and natural properties of the RMI.

With the Minister of Education, Mr Wilfred I. Kendall the Director-General engaged in detailed talks on quality education and basic education. The Minister explained that the remoteness and the smallness of the RMI prevent the Government from making regular visits or providing basic education to outer island schools and rural areas. The Director-General assured the Minister that UNESCO would take all necessary measures to support and collaborate fully on these issues.

Finally, the Director-General met with the RMI Council of NGOs, whose purpose is to encourage commitment to principles of capacity-building, sustainable development and cultural competency. The Director-General welcomed the initiatives undertaken by the NGOs, some of which have been made possible through the Participation Programme, in order to assist in the identification of the RMIís needs and to target the flow of resources within and across governmental and non-governmental sectors. To help them pursue their course of action he encouraged the NGOs to mobilize technical and advisory assistance from the Apia Office.

Source Flash Info nį136-2005




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