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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
22 September 2004

United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Executive Board

Hundred and seventieth Session

170 EX/33 Rev.
Paris, 22 September 2004
Original: English

Items 9.3 of the provisional agenda



1. This document outlines action taken by UNESCO with regard to the situation of Palestinian education and cultural institutions, since the 169th session of the Executive Board (April 2004).

2. At the 169th session of the Executive Board, the Director-General, guided by the constructive spirit of the debates held during the 32nd session of the General Conference as reflected in 32 C/Resolution 54, indicated his intention to reinvigorate and intensify action in the Middle East in the fields of competence of the Organization. Part I of the present document reports on the implementation of the concrete measures which were announced by the Director-General in document 169 EX/35.

3. Operational activities by UNESCO, aimed at supporting the Palestinian people and institutions, continued to progress during the period under review, particularly in the fields of education and culture. Despite difficulties and delays resulting from the tense situation in the Palestinian territory, the UNESCO Ramallah Office, in cooperation with the Palestinian authorities, successfully implemented a number of activities and projects. Part II of the present report provides information thereon. The continuous strengthening of the technical and administrative capacities of the UNESCO Ramallah Office, through both staff training and additional human resources, was a key factor in this regard.

4. During the period under review, the Director-General was called upon to address specific cases related to Palestinian educational and cultural institutions, in particular recent measures affecting Palestinian archaeological sites and historical monuments in the West Bank. In response, the Director-General agreed to extend technical assistance to the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in assessing the status of conservation of sites and monuments, and to facilitate dialogue with Israeli authorities to address the impact of planned security measures on archaeological sites and historical monuments.


5. In document 169 EX/35, the Director-General indicated his intention to give new impetus to UNESCO’s contribution to processes of reconstruction and reconciliation in the Middle East, in particular by speeding up the formulation by the Organization of an integrated strategic approach on the matter. To this end, document 169 EX/35 presented a timetable proposing preliminary consultations with Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders on such a strategic approach and its subsequent examination by the Joint UNESCO-Palestinian Authority Committee. Moreover, in accordance with 32 C/Resolution 54, which “calls on the Joint UNESCO-Palestinian Authority Committee to convene a donor meeting within a period of 12 months in order to have additional capacities to achieve the objectives set out in this resolution”, the Director-General proposed the formulation of a package of concrete projects addressing priority needs, identified in the strategic approach.

6. In line with the above, the Director-General instructed the Deputy Director-General to lead an intersectoral mission with a view to consulting Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders on cooperation priorities to be developed in the strategic framework. The mission which included DADG/CLT, DIR/ED/PEQ, DIR/ED/EPS and the Focal Point for the Middle East, after visiting Israel from 5 to 8 June, was received by senior officials of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank from 8 to 11 June. The terms of reference of the mission were:

7. The mission was instrumental in collecting first-hand information on the current situation and needs in the area in UNESCO’s fields of competence, thus helping not only to reinforce the ongoing cooperation but also to identify new areas of mutual interest. It also provided an opportunity for rich and open exchanges with official authorities and non-governmental partners on both sides, thus contributing to confidence building which, in its turn, is expected to greatly facilitate the implementation of UNESCO’s relevant programmes and projects.

8. Building on the consultations with the Palestinian authorities, a draft “UNESCO Programme of Assistance for Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” was prepared for submission to the Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee Meeting. The draft indicated that the Programme of Assistance was conceived as the first pillar of the forthcoming UNESCO strategy in the Middle East on the theme “Rehabilitation, Development and Dialogue”. The draft identified the following three strategic objectives: (i) delivering emergency assistance to affected Palestinian institutions and sectors; (ii) rehabilitation and strengthening of policy-making and institutions in the educational, scientific, cultural and media fields; (iii) developing and strengthening capacities of professional groups and the Palestinian civil society to engage in the knowledge society.

9. The draft Programme of assistance also refers to the need to prepare for “more effective dialogue towards reconciliation” in the Middle East (the second pillar of the future strategy) and indicated, in this regard, that “one of UNESCO’s tasks could be to help re-establish and strengthen as many links as possible among intellectuals, academia, representatives of civil society, professional organizations and especially women and youth and to help articulate a vision for learning to live together and to put in place measures conducive to learning about others and learning to understand each other”. Within the coming months, the Director-General intends to further explore how, in the current situation, UNESCO can best encourage such dialogue initiatives, in close consultation with Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

10. The sixth meeting of the Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee took place at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, on 15 and 16 July 2004. The Palestinian delegation to the Committee was headed by H.E. Mr Yahya Yakhlef, Minister of Culture of the Palestinian Authority, accompanied by H.E. Mr Ahmed Abdelrazek, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO and the Assistant Secretary-General of the Palestinian Committee for Education, Culture and Science, as well as senior representatives from the following Ministries: Planning, Education and Higher Education, Tourism and Antiquities, Culture, Information, Women’s Affairs, Youth and Sport. The meeting was opened by the Director-General, who introduced the UNESCO delegation headed by the Deputy Director-General and composed of senior staff from all UNESCO Programme Sectors and relevant central services, as well as the Director and programme officers from the UNESCO Ramallah Office.

11. The purpose of the sixth meeting of the Joint Committee was twofold: (i) the validation of the “UNESCO Programme of Assistance for Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”; and (ii) the identification of needs to be addressed in priority under the new Programme of Assistance. The meeting validated the Programme of Assistance and identified a series of highly visible “flagship projects”, which address urgent needs in various fields of UNESCO competence and would be prepared in the coming months by UNESCO in cooperation with the Palestinian authorities, for submission to donors. Seed-funding for project formulation was identified within each programme sector, with a view to ensuring the development of fully fledged project proposals for the various Flagship projects.

12. In the follow-up to 32 C/Resolution 54, which called on the Joint UNESCO-Palestinian Authority Committee to convene a donor meeting within a period of 12 months after the 32nd session of the General Conference, the meeting recommended such a donor event to be slightly postponed and thus take place by April 2005. This would give UNESCO and the Palestinian authorities the necessary time to prepare thoroughly for the event.

13. During the closing session of the meeting, a new project “EFA for Youth, Adult, and the Underprivileged Groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, funded by Japanese Funds-in-Trust, was signed between the Palestinian Authority and UNESCO.

14. After the meeting UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority issued a Joint Communiqué summarizing the outcomes of the meeting, which is included in the annex to the present document. The conclusions to the present report propose further steps to advance the action of the Organization in the Middle East.


15. The period under review saw the launching of activities foreseen under document 32 C/5 Approved. In addition, existing longer-term projects were continued. As highlighted in the report on this item to the previous session of the Executive Board, UNESCO action aimed at supporting the Palestinian people and institutions are strongly focused on capacity-building and on the provision of technical expertise, so as to create benefits for the most vulnerable communities.

A. Education: progress and results achieved

16. In May 2004, UNESCO completed its emergency assistance to Palestinian schools covering their immediate needs, such as stationery, educational materials, small repairs, electronic equipment (computers, copy machines, fax, etc.), and extra-curricula activities. Since the beginning of the programme in 2003, 433 Palestinian schools had benefited from such assistance.

17. Policy and planning advice as well as other capacity-building assistance were provided to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE). The first National Conference on EFA took place in Ramallah on 27 and 28 April 2004, in close cooperation with UNESCO, which assisted financially and technically in the organization of the Conference. The Conference brought together key national stakeholders, including the civil society, and allowed a broad consultation and dialogue process on the EFA Plan proposed by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Other United Nations agencies, like UNICEF and UNRWA, as well as major donors active in the field of education also participated. Another important contribution to MOHE policy and planning is the case study currently developed with assistance from IIEP to document the experiences of MoEHE since its establishment in late August 1994. Based on this case study, a workshop will be organized in Ramallah to discuss the lessons learned and to draw conclusions and recommendations for the next 5-year education development plan (2005-2009).

18. UNESCO continued its assistance to MOHE in reinforcing its capacities to improve the quality standards in higher education. The preparation of training courses for new senior staff of the Accreditation and Quality Assurance Commission in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE), as well as for staff within colleges and other educational institutions was initiated. In the field of higher education, increased support was also provided to Palestinian students to offer them studying opportunities abroad.

19. In the area of early childhood education, training materials in Arabic on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) were finalized and printed at the Training Department of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. The material incorporates the key recommendations resulting from the one-week study tour in Amman undertaken by staff from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in September 2003. These capacity-building efforts have led to the recognition of ECCE as one of the key priority areas in the preparation of the new Five-Year Education Development Plan (2006-2010).

20. Furthermore, in the context of a joint UNESCO/UNDP project, funded by the government of Japan, the rehabilitation and provision of equipment to a kindergarten in Nablus was completed in May 2004. The kindergarten was officially inaugurated in the presence of Dr Naim Abu Hommos, Minister of Education and Higher Education and the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, as well as representatives of the Government of Japan and UNDP. While the kindergarten is yet not operational, the project is in the process of being handed over to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

21. In the field of technical and vocational education (TVET) capacity-building, several workshops were organized to enhance the capacity of the participants to design TVET curricula according to the competency based MES concept and approach. A modularized competency-based technical and vocational education programme has been developed and is presently being piloted in Ramallah. Besides training, normative action in TVET was supported. Officials from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) and from the Ministry of Labor (MOL) participated in a Regional Seminar on a TVET Normative Instrument organized by UNESCO in Yemen, in May 2004. The seminar advocated the implementation of the UNESCO normative instrument concerning TVET.

22. Music education was introduced in some 25 Palestinian primary and secondary schools, in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron. This was achieved through the services of an Italian professional violist, from the Venice Conservatory Orchestra, who visited the Palestinian Territories from March to April 2004.

B. Culture: progress and results achieved

23. Considerable progress was achieved with regard to the inventory of outstanding Palestinian cultural and natural heritage and to capacity-building for the safeguarding of such sites. This action was carried out pursuant to the decision by the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-sixth session in Budapest (June 2002) and will be continued further to decision 28 COM 17 B.II of the twenty-eighth session of the World Heritage Committee (Suzhou, China, 28 June-7 July 2004). Indeed, the Committee requested the World Heritage Centre “to continue assisting the concerned Palestinian institutions in developing capacity in the protection of the cultural and natural heritage and assessing its state of conservation particularly in taking steps to protect historical and archaeological sites from any damage due to ‘recent measures’ affecting them”. The following achievements can be mentioned to this date:
24. Efforts towards the rehabilitation and conservation of Palestinian cultural sites and monuments continued in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho and Nablus. Progress under these projects can be summarized as follows:
25. Formulation of a policy on cultural tourism in the Palestinian territory – further to the workshop held in Ramallah on 2 December 2003, a “Paper on Cultural Tourism in the Palestinian territory: Policy, Resources and Products” was prepared by a Palestinian expert, nominated rapporteur of the newly established Palestinian Committee for Cultural Tourism. The paper was submitted to UNESCO on 8 March 2004. The first meeting of the Palestinian Committee for Cultural Tourism took place in Bethlehem in July 2004, aiming at discussing the submitted paper and finalizing the Cultural Tourism Policy.

C. Natural Sciences: progress and results achieved

26. Progress in the phase II of the project “Capacity-Building and Training on Environment Planning and Management in the Palestinian territory”, funded by the Government of Flanders, included support to research by Palestinian academic institutions in conservation of water resources, as well as provision of equipment to the Al-Azhar University in Gaza.

D. Communication and Information: progress and results achieved

27. In February 2004, a media adviser was assigned to the Ramallah Office, to asses the media situation, so as to reinvigorate and launch new activities in the field of communication and information, namely aimed at: (i) training in production skills for Palestinian television professionals; (ii) reconstructing and strengthening of the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA); (iii) establishing a multimedia resource centre; (iv) establishing a community radio in Beit Jala.

28. Through the UNESCO INFOYOUTH centre in Hebron, students have benefited from free Internet access and have enrolled in the various ICT skills courses offered. An online exam preparation resource “e-tawjihi” was prepared for 13 different courses, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and with the NGO “International Palestine Youth League”.


29. While the prevailing circumstances on the ground were not conducive to major advances in the area of “dialogue towards reconciliation”, some preparatory actions have been instigated. In particular, UNESCO has supported an academic cooperation initiative between Israeli and Palestinian Rectors and Presidents of Universities, under the aegis of the University of “La Sapienza” (Rome, Italy). The initiative was launched at a conference hosted by the University of “La Sapienza” in May 2004, where agreement was reached by the representatives of academic community attending the Conference to engage into the development of common university programmes. A Master on “Social Sciences and Humanitarian Affairs” is the first proposed joint programme, which UNESCO will support, through Italian Funds-in-Trust. Another recent initiative supported by UNESCO is the establishment of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO). This bi-national, non-profit, and non-political organization, launched in April 2004, will support cooperation in high quality research in science and learning between Israeli and Palestinian scientists and scholars working together, typically in institutions of higher learning. The initiative has already been endorsed by academies of sciences from over 20 countries in different regions of the world.


30. Both 32 C/Resolution 54 and 169 EX/Decision 8.2 invite the Director-General “to continue the efforts he is making with a view to preserving the human, social and cultural fabric of the occupied Syrian Golan (…)” and “to undertake efforts with a view to offering appropriate curricula and to provide more grants and special assistance to the educational institutions of the occupied Syrian Golan”.

31. The Director-General started exploring ways to revitalize and renew UNESCO assistance in the above-mentioned areas, taking into account the prevailing situation in the occupied Syrian Golan. In particular, the Secretariat has engaged a consultation with the Syrian authorities on modalities to reinforce assistance to Syrian students living in the occupied Syrian Golan, so as to increase and diversify educational opportunities for such students. The Director-General will report to the General Conference on the results of such efforts.


32. Encouraged by the positive spirit of cooperation, which has guided the progress and achievements reported on in the present document, the Director-General intends to further strengthen UNESCO’s contribution to processes of reconstruction and dialogue in the Middle East by:


33. In the light of the above, the Executive Board may wish to adopt a decision along the following lines:



1. In accordance with resolution 54 (“Implementation of 31 C/Resolution 43 concerning educational and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab territories”) adopted by the General Conference at its 32nd session, the Sixth Joint UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Committee met on 15 and 16 July 2004 at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris. During the meeting, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, presented his personal initiative to begin a new phase of strengthened cooperation between UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority, based on a strategic approach and a longer-term partnership. In particular, the meeting served to discuss the “UNESCO Programme of Assistance for Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, prepared following a broad consultative process with the Palestinian Authority and other stakeholders.

2. During the meeting, the delegation of the Palestinian Authority, headed by H.E. Minister of Culture Yahya Yaklef and composed of H.E. Mr Ahmad Abdelrazek, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO as well as representatives from several Ministries of the Government of the Palestinian Authority,1 presented the areas of prime interest for cooperation between UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority for the period 2004-2007 in the following fields: education and higher education, safeguarding of cultural heritage (tangible and intangible), promotion of living cultures, the development of cultural industries, media development and promotion of freedom of the press, gender equality, and youth empowerment and participation.

3. The Joint Committee approved a “UNESCO Programme of Assistance for Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2004-2007” (hereinafter referred to as “the Programme of Assistance”), which reflects the above-mentioned priorities and defines UNESCO assistance both in the form of emergency assistance and longer-term institutional and human capacity-building. The Programme of Assistance represents a first step towards the formulation of a strategy for UNESCO action in the Middle East on the theme “Rehabilitation, Development and Dialogue”. As a first step in the implementation of the Programme of Assistance, UNESCO in close cooperation with the Palestinian authorities, shall develop sectoral work plans for activities and projects to be implemented in the coming year.

4. With a view to securing the resources necessary for the implementation of the Programme of Assistance and in accordance with 32 C/Resolution 54, which “calls on the Joint UNESCOPalestinian Authority Committee to convene a donor meeting within a period of 12 months in order to have additional capacities to achieve the objectives set out in this resolution”, the Committee recommends a donor event to be organized before April 2005, to mobilize funding for the implementation of the Programme of Assistance.

5. As immediate follow-up, the Director-General will make the utmost efforts to identify and mobilize extrabudgetary resources for a series of UNESCO/Palestinian Authority Flagship Projects. These Flagship Projects will meet the short-term priority needs of the Palestinians detailed in the Programme of Assistance, and will be highly visible with positive achievements in the current climate of tension and hardship experienced by the Palestinian people.

6. Finally, the Joint Committee agreed to give priority, in the year to come, to cooperation between UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority on the following specific Flagship projects and activities:


1. Cultural Tangible and Intangible Heritage:

2. As a first step to invigorating Palestinian cultural industries, especially its book industry, revive the annual Palestinian Book Fair, as a tool to increase Palestinians’ access to culture, through books on literature, the arts and social, human and natural sciences. Parallel artistic events will be organized.


1 Representatives from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Ministry of Youth and Sport, and the Palestinian Commission for Education, Culture and Science.

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