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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
13 March 2003

United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Executive Board

Hundred and sixty-sixth Session

166 EX/40
PARIS, 13 March 2003
Original: English/French

Item 10.1 of the provisional agenda



This document is presented in compliance with 165 EX/Decision 10.2 adopted by the Executive Board at its 165th session, which requested the Director-General to report to it on the implementation of this decision at the 166th session.









1. On 29 January 2003, the Director-General convened an information meeting of Permanent Delegates to UNESCO on the Organization’s action in the Middle East where the guest of honour was Mr Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. While applauding the current efforts deployed by the international community to reach a comprehensive peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, the Director-General and the Special Coordinator acknowledged, and deplored, the suffering and despair prevailing on the ground as well as the dramatically deteriorating economic situation. For some two and a half years now, these circumstances have constituted the backdrop of all UNESCO’s efforts towards reconstruction and reconciliation in the region. Even though it has proven to be an arduous task, some measure of success has been achieved, especially since the establishment last May of the Task Force on Reconstruction and Reconciliation in the Middle East, chaired by the Director-General himself. This intersectoral structure, which held its third meeting in November 2002, has given a renewed focus to the region and placed its preoccupations at the very heart of the Organization’s agenda. The most telling manifestation of this new drive is the Director-General’s proposal to develop even more decidedly UNESCO’s strategy in favour of the Middle East if his financial scenario based on a budget ceiling of US $610 million for the 2004-2005 biennium is adopted by the Member States.

2. This document will address the noticeable progress made in implementing 165 EX/Decision 10.2 since the last session of the Executive Board, some four months ago at the time of writing. The following will be addressed:


A. Objectives of the mission

3. As agreed with both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, the objectives of this mission were:
B. Make-up of the delegation and programmes followed

4. The delegation led by the Deputy Director-General was composed, including himself, of eight persons: the Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation (whose report on her mission to the region in September 2002 was included in document 165 EX/43 Add.); the Director of the Division of Educational Policies and Strategies; the Director of the Division for the Promotion of Quality Education; the Director of the UNESCO/UNRWA Department of Education, based in Amman; a programme specialist in education (now posted in Ramallah); an Italian architect acting as a consultant to the UNESCO Office in Ramallah; and the head of the UNESCO Office in Ramallah.

5. The programmes for the mission were prepared in close cooperation with the Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO who worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel and the Israel National Commission for UNESCO and the Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO who consulted throughout the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Committee for Education, Science and Culture, and the UNESCO Office in Ramallah. The Director-General should like to express his heartfelt thanks to all, and most especially to the Secretary-General of the Israel National Commission for UNESCO and the Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO who accompanied the delegation, thus allowing it to benefit from their intimate knowledge of their respective constituencies and their understanding of the issues at hand.

6. For the sake of efficiency, the delegation was split in two at the beginning of the mission, with some members working in Israel (the Deputy Director-General; the Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation; and the Director of the Division for the Promotion of Quality Education) while the others carried out their duties in the Palestinian Territories. The full delegation spent the last four days of the mission together in the Palestinian Territories.

C. The visit to Israel

Meetings with bridge-builders

7. During its three-day stay in Israel, the delegation focused its energies on identifying actors – either individuals or organizations – engaged on a daily basis in addressing both levels of the reconciliatory process there: inward, between Arabs and Jews within Israel, and outward, between Israelis and Palestinians. In some cases, contacts had been initiated in September 2002 when the Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Affairs and Cooperation first visited there.

8. This dual and simultaneous approach to dialogue and peace was recognized by the Organization when some “carry-over” funds were attributed to the Citizen’s Accord Forum between Jews and Arabs in Israel, located in Jaffa and where the delegation saw many of the 2,500 children and adults carrying out their daily studies and activities together and heard of the 600 Arab and Jewish journalists who had just established a common press club. The delegation was also informed of the 80 organizations constituting the “Network of the Jewish-Arab Coexistence Organizations in Israel” and witnessed a PowerPoint presentation on this initiative. Consideration was given at granting access to this institution’s website through UNESCO’s home page.

9. In order to witness first-hand similar initiatives, meetings were also held with the leaders of: the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development (initiated by the “Interns for Peace” and located in Herzliya Pituach) which aims at “economic reconciliation” by trying to close the economic gap between the two communities by, for instance, empowering Arab women to reach economic autonomy through establishing businesses; Hand in Hand: the Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, with a school in Jerusalem and the other in Galilee, where children from kindergarten onwards are taught simultaneously in Hebrew and in Arabic by two teachers and where all historical events and religious holidays are taught and observed by all children; the University of Haifa, where Arab student enrolment is over 20%; and two UNESCO Associated High Schools from Kfar Saba (a Jewish city) and Tira (an Arab city) which got together for the delegation in Kfar Saba, with the teachers, students and parents movingly explaining the dilemmas they face within the current climate.

10. As for those cooperating regularly with Palestinians in spite of the inauspicious times, key meetings were held with: the Peres Center for Peace (Tel Aviv); the Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace (Givat Haviva), winner of the 2001 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education; the School of Pediatric Wards at the Hadassah Medical Center (Jerusalem) which provides medical and in-hospital schooling to Israeli Jews and Arabs, as well as to Palestinian children; the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, twinned with the Palestinian International Peace and Cooperation Centre (IPCC), also based in Jerusalem; and the International Centre for the Study of Bird Migration (Latrun).

Outcome of the meetings with the bridge-builders

11. Modalities for long-term partnerships with UNESCO were discussed during each meeting (e.g. granting the use of the UNESCO logo; obtaining the “UNESCO Associated School” or “UNESCO Centre” status; serving as a model for UNESCO programmes) and numerous well-prepared proposals for financing were submitted to the delegation. Both the modalities envisaged and submissions received are being given careful consideration. As described further on, some funds were allocated to especially worthy projects discussed in situ.

Meetings with government representatives and outcome

12. Working meetings were held on three occasions with the Israeli authorities who hosted the delegation: upon arrival; during a luncheon on the third day of the mission; and after the mission to the Palestinian Territories had ended. During the large gathering over lunch, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the delegation interacted with: the Deputy Director-General of the sector responsible for relations with the United Nations and international organizations; the Director of the Department of International Organizations; the Director of the Department of Cultural and Scientific Cooperation; the Director of the Department of Policy Planning and External Affairs; and the Director of the Division of Palestinian Affairs, all of whom are senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Education was represented by the Senior Adviser to the Minister of Education and the Chair of her pedagogic secretariat, both of whom are also members of the Israel National Commission for UNESCO.

13. A number of topics were broached and, more specifically, discussions were held on some of the confidence-building measures UNESCO was proposing to implement between Israelis and Palestinians. These initiatives met with the support of the authorities and approval was given to the proposed joint meeting of the Israel National Commission for UNESCO and the Palestinian Committee for Education, Science and Culture, their first opportunity to cooperate in close to three years. This encounter will be organized by the Deputy Director-General and the Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation.

14. On a separate occasion, the delegation had a fruitful exchange with Israel’s Chief Scientist and Head of the Directorate of Science at the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport. Scientific exchanges with Palestinian academics and researchers as well as knowledge sharing and transfer were addressed, with the agreement that negotiations in this regard would be pursued soon thereafter. The Chief Scientist is also a member of the Israel National Commission for UNESCO.

End-of-mission debriefing with the Israeli authorities

15. The delegation was grateful for the opportunity to meet with several representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel after its stay in the Palestinian Territories. Three particular matters were addressed by the Deputy Director-General: the lack of access to schools by children, especially the young ones, who pose no clear security threats to Israel; the need to respect and preserve Palestinian cultural heritage and sites (the then current threat to 22 Mameluk and Ottoman houses in the Old City of Hebron was highlighted); and the need to improve cooperation with the UNESCO Office in Ramallah and devise facilitation mechanisms between the Ministry and the Office. The delegation expressed its appreciation for the attentive hearing given by the Israeli authorities to the issues raised.

D. The visit to the Palestinian Territories

16. During its four-day sojourn in the Palestinian Territories, the mission travelled to: Ramallah, Nablus (where, at the request of the delegation, the Israeli authorities allowed the mission to enter the city, in spite of the curfew), Hebron and Gaza. A 24-hour curfew prevented the mission to reach Bethlehem where meetings had been scheduled.

Meetings with heads of government and cabinet ministers

17. The government authorities who greeted the delegation in Ramallah and Gaza were:

Outcome of meetings with government

18. Many issues were discussed with these decision-makers and agreement was reached on the following:

Meetings with civil and political leaders and outcome

19. Contacts were also established with a number of prominent Palestinians who are active in the areas of competence of UNESCO and most notably:

E. New commitments made to bridge-building activities between Palestinians and Israelis at the conclusion of discussions held during the mission

20. Following these encounters, and on the basis of projects submitted to the mission, financial commitments were made for the following new activities, to be implemented by September 2003:

F. Overall assessment of the mission in education

21. The four-person specialized mission in education who stayed in the Palestinian Territories while the other part of the mission was in Israel was warmly welcomed as it was the first time since 1999 that UNESCO officials entered into a professional dialogue with Palestinian specialists in education to review the situation of education at all levels in the Palestinian Territories. It was a unique opportunity to establish urgent needs as well as medium- and long-term priorities and devise ways and means to address them together. This joint consultative process proved as important as the fruit it may bear.

22. The delegation in education met with a large number of senior officials of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, including the Minister himself. They also held consultations with the Special Representative of UNICEF; the President and Vice-Presidents of Bir Zeit University; the Director of the Palestinian Curriculum Development Center and his staff; the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Committee for Education, Science and Culture; and a consultant of the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning implementing a “carry-over”-funded case study on education systems under crisis. They also visited: a government school; an UNRWA school in the Al Amari Refuge Camp in Ramallah; and a UNESCO Associated School.

23. The major conclusions of these various encounters were:

24. A thorough review of the “carry-over” funds in education was carried out with the Palestinian partners. The work done consisted in ascertaining the appropriateness of the proposals approved in principle by the Task Force on Reconstruction and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

G. Overall assessment of the mission in culture

25. Further to ongoing discussions over the last several months with Palestinian authorities in the area of culture, as well as meetings held with the delegation, the following should form the basis of UNESCO’s forthcoming strategy in culture:

H. Meeting with some donors

26. An exploratory meeting with some donors interested in offering support to projects in education was graciously hosted by the Italian Cooperation Office in Jerusalem and was attended by donors from the Italian and French Governments, as well as representatives of the World Bank. This was the first opportunity given to UNESCO to actually elaborate the genesis of a funding strategy in education for the region. Essentially technical issues were addressed and in particular the plans and priorities of the respective participants. Again, the necessity to increase UNESCO’s advocacy role was stressed by all present and the mission was reminded of the importance of investing in endogenous capacity-building.

I. Working sessions with the heads of three United Nations agencies

27. One of the important aspects of the mission was the strengthening of UNESCO’s contacts at the highest level with some of the well-established United Nations agencies working in the region.

28. It is worth recalling that the UNESCO Office in Ramallah maintains daily contacts with United Nations agencies based in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza and its head, Ms Costanza Farina, is a member of the inter-agency mechanism set up to address issues in the region where she leads the working group on education. The United Nations sister agencies are thus a source of strength for the UNESCO Office in Ramallah as well as instrumental partners in many other ways. For example, both UNICEF and UNDP provided the mission with indispensable logistical support – sturdy cars and knowledgeable drivers – without which extensive travelling in occasionally difficult conditions would not have been possible.

29. The delegation was fortunate to be able to talk at length with the heads of four key United Nations institutions who, individually and collectively, have gathered a wealth of knowledge and an in-depth understanding of the region, namely: Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), whose Director of the Department of Education is appointed by the Director-General and is a UNESCO staff member; Timothy S. Rothermel, Special Representative for the UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People; and Pierre Poupard, Special Representative for UNICEF.

30. All heads of agencies reacted favourably to the UNESCO confidence-building measures being put in place and there was unanimous agreement that UNESCO had a specific role to play in this regard, even though the difficulties ahead are real. UNESCO’s two-track simultaneous approach to reconciliation – between Arabs and Jews within Israel, on the one hand and between Israelis and Palestinians, on the other – was viewed as pragmatic and a worthwhile investment. Building bridges should be done between those who share a common interest, training and profession: teachers to teachers; farmers to farmers; professors to professors; doctors to doctors; etc. Some United Nations colleagues felt that UNESCO should identify topics of research where professionals could team up. Investigation of the respective and common cultural heritage and the commissioning of studies to assess progress in improving the contents of textbooks in the region were cases in point.

31. The agencies are looking forward to UNESCO’s overall strategy and revitalized plan of action for the region and stressed the importance of striking a healthy balance between meeting emergency needs and addressing medium- and long-term priorities.

32. Finally, increasing the profile of UNESCO’s advocacy role was stressed. It was even suggested that a communications officer should be hired by the UNESCO Office in Ramallah for that purpose.

A. Missions sent by the Culture Sector to the Palestinian Territories

Mission to Bethlehem

13-17 October 2002

Title of project:Conservation Master Plan for Bethlehem/CMP (integrated plan to identify and protect items of the cultural heritage in the three municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour).
Commencement date of project:Discussed with Bethlehem 2000 since 1999; approved in March 2002 by an agreement between the World Bank, the Italian Government, UNESCO and Bethlehem 2000. Signature of an amendment to the agreement by the Palestinian Authority and UNESCO in June 2002.
Role of UNESCO:Technical assistance to the Centre for Cultural Heritage Protection (CCHP) in Bethlehem for the elaboration and implementation of the work
Duration of the project:12 months (October 2002-October 2003)
Experts:Carlo Blasi, architect, professor in the restoration of historic buildings at the University of Bari.
Tatiana Kirova, town planner, professor in town planning at the University of Cagliari.
Total budget for the project:$250,000
Budget allocated to UNESCO:$174,930
Donor:Italian Government (through the World Bank)
Implementation partner:Centre for Cultural Heritage Protection (CCHP) in Bethlehem

Reminder: UNESCO has been involved in Bethlehem in the past, carrying out several projects in
education and culture there since 1995.

Objectives of the mission:
Mission results:

Difficulties encountered:

Missions to Nablus

5-10 November 2002
7-12 December 2002

Title of project:Technical assistance for the rehabilitation of the Khân al-Wakâlât (caravanserai, mostly dating from the eighteenth century with remains from
the twelfth century), Old Town of Nablus.
Commencement date of project:May 2001
Role of UNESCO: Provide technical assistance to the municipality of Nablus for the restoration of the caravanserai, and ensure the training segment.
Duration of project: Three years, to 2004
Experts: Michelangelo Fabbrini, architect, specialist in the restoration of historic buildings, Florence (Italy) and other experts who have come on mission at different times.
Total budget for the project: €2,500,000 (int ended for the municipality of Nablus)
Budget allocated to UNESCO:€180,000
Donor: European Commission
Implementation partner: Municipality of Nablus

Reminder: UNESCO has carried out several projects in Nablus since 1995.

Objectives of the mission:

Mission results:

Difficulties encountered:

Reconnaissance mission on the Palestinian cultural heritage

14 November-15 December 2002

Title of project: Reconnaissance mission on the Palestinian cultural heritage (and temporary strengthening of the capacities of the UNESCO Ramallah Office with a cultural heritage specialist).
Commencement date of project: 14 November 2002
Role of UNESCO: Directly responsible
Duration of project: Five weeks
Experts: Ignazio Valente, architect, consultant resident in Helsinki, Finland.
Total budget for the project: $13,000
Budget allocated to UNESCO: $13,000
Donor: Carry-over funds from the 2000-2001 biennium
Implementation partner: A number of relevant Palestinian participants

Objectives of the mission:

Results achieved:

Difficulties encountered:

B. Follow-up mission by the Communication and Information Sector

Follow-up mission by the Communication and Information Sector 1-7 February 2003

Title of project:Follow-up to projects initiated during the Sector's previous mission in September 2002.
Commencement date of project:September 2002
Role of UNESCO:Technical assistance and facilitation of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
Duration of project:One year
Pascal Mallet (Director of Agence France Presse (AFP) in Beirut)
Stefano Poscia (Correspondent for the Italian news agency ANSA in Tel Aviv)
Djordje Zorkic (Deputy Director-General of the Yugoslav news agency BETA)
Total budget for the project:$55,000 from the carry-over funds ($15,000 for the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian journalists; $10,000 for the Israeli-Palestinian co-production of a television programme; $30,000 for a newspaper supplement in Arabic and Hebrew)
Budget allocated to UNESCO:$55,000
Implementation partner:Israeli, and Palestinian authorities; media professionals; communication specialists.

Objectives of the mission:

Results achieved:

Difficulties encountered:

The carry-over funds from the previous biennium allocated to the project were inadequate; additional funds will need to be raised.


33. A total of 21 projects will be the beneficiaries of the unspent balance of $1,135,000 for 2000-2001 for “Reconstruction of Palestinian educational and cultural infrastructure and promoting reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians” decided by the 164th session of the Executive Board in May 2002.

34. Each project has now been entered into UNESCO’s System of Information on Strategies, Tasks and the Evaluation of Results (SISTER) to which Member States and their National Commissions have access. Even though all projects are well under way, an internal mechanism has been developed to ensure that all activities will be enacted within the prescribed time frame. Since the return of the Deputy Director-General to Headquarters from his mission, the Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation has been requested to oversee all 21 projects and monitor their implementation within the prescribed time frame.


A. From Japanese extrabudgetary funds: US $200,000 for 40 students

35. Further to the “project document” signed with the Japanese authorities setting out the conditions of allocation of the funds and the plan of operations signed with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to UNESCO, 40 Palestinian students (18 women and 22 men), both undergraduates and graduates studying in Europe, Asia, the Arab States and North America were selected in January 2003 as beneficiaries of this financial assistance to be paid directly to them, in two separate instalments, for the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 academic years. Before qualifying for the second instalment, students are expected to produce the result of their studies and research.

B. From “carry-over” funds: US $50,000 for approximately 10 students

36. Some 10 students carrying out graduate studies in culture and the arts – art, history of art, architecture, archaeology and museum studies – will be selected by UNESCO upon submission of a list of potential beneficiaries by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to UNESCO, no later than March 2003. Negotiations are under way in this regard.

C. From the regular budget of the Education Sector: US $15,000 for five students

37. On 14 January 2003, US $15,000 were awarded for five undergraduate students (three women and two men) selected in cooperation with the Education Sector and the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to UNESCO.


A. Mission of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to the Palestinian Territories (1-8 October 2002)

38. Following the 26th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Budapest in June 2002, Decision 26 COM 6.1 invited the “Director-General, in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, to assist with the task of establishing an inventory of [Palestinian] cultural and natural heritage, assessing state of conservation and the measures for its preservation and rehabilitation”. The World Heritage Committee approved an amount of US $150,000 for this purpose. In October 2002, the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and its Chief of the Arab Unit carried out a mission in the region to explore ways and means of enacting this decision.

B. Plan of action

39. After consultation with the appropriate authorities, seven activities were identified including: the preparation of a preliminary inventory of sites; an assessment of the state of conservation of two selected sites (to be determined); and capacity-building training activities for Palestinian professionals to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).

C. Implementation of the first activity identified within the plan of action: a training course for Palestinian professionals

40. A “Training Workshop on the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention” is expected to be carried out in Rome (Italy) from 30 March to 6 April 2003 with 15 Palestinian professionals in attendance, carefully selected by UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Trained as architects, civil engineers, historians and archaeologists, they will participate in the course given by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), in order to become familiar with the objectives, terminology and procedures of the World Heritage Convention through theoretical classes, site visits and practical exercises.


A. Two new professionals from Headquarters and training of local staff

41. Since the last Executive Board in October 2002, two professional staff have been transferred from Headquarters to the UNESCO Office in Ramallah. Both at P-3 level, they are specialists in education and in fund-raising within the United Nations system. It is expected that shortly an architect specializing in restoration will join them for a nine-month period under contract with the Organization. Furthermore, all three local staff have received training outside the Palestinian Territories: the administrative assistant spent two weeks at Headquarters and the project assistant and the executive secretary spent two weeks together in the UNESCO Office in Beirut where they were exposed to a well-established and large UNESCO Office which handles a high volume of funds and projects.

B. More functional premises

42. During his mission there in December 2002, the Deputy Director-General felt that appropriate premises should be secured as the current ones are not centrally located and families live on the ground floor. New premises are being identified and the Office should move into them in the near future.


43. In the forthcoming months, three large-scale meetings need be convened:

44. In the weeks ahead, a comprehensive UNESCO strategy for the Middle East will be developed and submitted to the Task Force on Reconstruction and Reconciliation in the Middle East and Member States for discussion.

45. In mid-February, world events led the United Nations Security Coordinator to suspend all missions to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (except for those urgent missions of a humanitarian and political nature) until further notice (the scheduled mission of the ADG/SHS from 22 to 26 March 2003 may thus be delayed).

46. Even though the recent developments on the ground will not facilitate the Organization’s “reconstruction and reconciliation” agenda, the Director-General is fully committed to the pursuit of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East and intends to continue dedicating his personal efforts and those of his staff to achieve this aim.


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