|Opening of the Fifth meeting of the Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee - Updated: 23-05-2003 1:45 pm |
23-05-2003 12:50 pm The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, chaired the opening session of the Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee, which is meeting for the fifth time, on 22 and 23 May 2003, at the Organization’s Headquarters.
The purpose of the meeting is to take stock of actions carried out in the different fields of competence of the Organization, within the framework of the agreement signed in December 1993 between UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority and identify new projects for implementation over the short, medium and long term.
The Director-General first underscored that the meeting was being held “at a time when, even though violence on the ground persists, and international terrorism in different parts of the world has again only recently sought to shake our optimism, Palestinians and Israelis are striving to achieve a positive symbiosis”. He noted that, in this regard, “there are indeed reasons for us to cast a hopeful glance at the months ahead: the designation of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the formal presentation of the Road Map, the recent meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, as well as with Secretary of State Colin Powell, are among them.”
After presenting the main lines of cooperation that have been established between UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority and underlining the Organization’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, Koïchiro Matsuura expressed the willingness of UNESCO to participate fully, in all its areas of competence, in the implementation of the three phases proposed in the Road Map elaborated by the Quartet: “We are in a position”, he declared, “ to contribute in each of the three phases. The timeframe set for the Road Map is tight and it is my hope that it will be met. All of us here dream of the day when we will watch television and read stories where the heroes will be living in an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state … side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours”. The Director-General stated however that “the violent events which have occurred these last few days, aimed at endangering the new hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians as brought on by the Road Map, have left me deeply saddened and concerned.”
The Director-General expressed his conviction that the meeting would lead to a strategy and plan of action to support the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in the fields of education, culture, and communication. Once finalized, this strategy will be included in the Organization’s programme for the 2004-2005 biennium.
He underlined the importance of projects in support of reconstructing Palestinian institutions, while noting that such activities should not be carried out independently of initiatives in favour of dialogue and reconciliation. He therefore welcomed the starting-up of several projects to promote contacts between Israeli and Palestinian civil society, following the intersectoral mission carried out by UNESCO last December. The Director-General emphasized the particular importance he attached to the revision of textbooks, which he saw as a fundamental instrument for restoring confidence and fostering mutual understanding. He also expressed his satisfaction with the positive response of the Palestinian Authority to his proposal to bring together, under his auspices, the Israel National Commission for UNESCO and the Palestinian Committee for Education, Science and Culture.
The Palestinian Minister of Education and Higher Education, Mr Naim Abu Hommos, who is head of the Palestinian Delegation, first reiterated that the Palestinian Authority had decided to accept the Road Map. He then thanked UNESCO for its constant support for the Palestinian people, particularly in the fields of education and cultural heritage. Recalling the attachment of the Palestinian people to relations with UNESCO, he expressed his hope that the Organization would continue to offer its aid.
The Director-General and the Minister of Education and Higher Education took the opportunity of the meeting to hold private talks.