Question of Palestine home
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
16 March 1994
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Hundred and forty-fourth Session
PARIS, 16 March 1994
Item 4.2.1 of the provisional agenda
APPLICATION OF 142 EX/DECISION 5.3.1
CONCERNING EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL
INSTITUTIONS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES
In this document the Director-General reports to the Executive Board on the measures he has taken to implement 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1.
1. After considering at its 142nd session the major historical events of September 1993, beginning with the mutual recognition and signing of a declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and after considering as well the report of the Director-General concerning the educational and cultural institutions in the occupied Arab territories (142 EX/11 and Add.), the Executive Board adopted decision 5.3.1, assuring the Arab and Israeli parties concerned in negotiations on the peace process that UNESCO would ‘spare no effort to assist in the establishment and consolidation of peace through, education, culture, science and communication’, and declaring that ‘the reconstitution and development of the education system in the occupied Palestinian territories must receive UNESCO’s full attention’. In this context, the Executive Board, in paragraph 14, requested the Director- General:
‘taking into account the new situation in this region and its implications and demands, to draw up, in consultation with the relevant Palestinian authorities, with the international financing organizations concerned and with the bodies and funds set up for the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories, a comprehensive plan including short-, medium- and long-term targets, with the main objective of contributing to rebuilding the Palestinian educational and cultural system’.
In paragraph 15, the Executive Board invited the Director-General to undertake a number of specified planning, development and co-ordinating actions related to the above request. In addition, in paragraphs 17 and 18 respectively, the Executive Board invited the Director-General:
‘to continue his efforts with regard to Syrian Golan, within the framework of the Executive Board decisions;
to give his support, at the appropriate moment, to promoting the favourable outcome of the peace process that has been set in motion between the Arab States and Israel’.
Finally, the Executive Board proposed that the General Conference, at its twenty-seventh session, adopt 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 as a resolution.
2. This document reports on developments which have taken place since the 142nd session.
Resolution 27 C/18
3. Following the proposal of the Executive Board, the General Conference, at its twenty-seventh session, adopted on 13 November 1993, 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 as 27 C/Resolution 18.
Assistance for development
4. On 25 October 1993, the Director-General initiated an exchange of correspondence with the United Nations Secretary-General, apprising him of UNESCO’s plans to assist the Palestinian people in the new historical context. In a response dated 18 November 1993, the Secretary-General stated his intention to set up a mechanism aimed at ensuring a co-ordinated approach by the United Nations system for assistance to the Palestinians and expressed the
hope that UNESCO, as well as other relevant Specialized Agencies, would be closely associated with this process. Several recent inter-organizational activities undertaken by UNESCO for development assistance to the Palestinian people fall within the framework of the co-ordination that the Secretary-General described - for example, UNESCO’s participation in a meeting of the World Bank consultative group dealing with aid to Palestinians, which was held on 15 December 1993 in Paris.
5. As a follow-up to the workshop on developing a Palestinian curriculum for basic education which was held from 20 to 24 August 1990 at the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) in Paris, and in response to a request from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to UNESCO, a workshop on secondary education was held from 27 to 30 November 1993 in East Jerusalem. The workshop, entitled ‘Towards an innovative vision of the future: Palestinian curriculum at the secondary stage’, was organized by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education, with UNESCO’s technical and financial assistance through the Participation Programme. Some 200 Palestinian educators and officials attended, as did eight international experts and staff members of UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF and UNRWA.
6. From 8 to 10 December 1993, an international round table entitled ‘Peace, the Day After’ was held in Granada, Spain, following an invitation by the Director-General to Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals as well as eminent figures from the Arab World, Europe, the United States and Asia to debate their roles in projecting a vision of a shared future and bringing about peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. At the opening session, Mr Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of PLO and Mr Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister of Israel, who met for the first time under the auspices of UNESCO, reaffirmed their commitment to make the peace process irreversible. The round table was intended to promote dialogue, since, as the Director-General said in his closing remarks, ‘Only through dialogue can reality be changed’.
7. On 9 December, during the Granada encounter, the Director-General took a major step towards implementing the Executive Board’s request that a comprehensive plan be drawn up for the rebuilding of the Palestinian educational and cultural system. He co-signed, with Chairman Arafat, a ‘Memorandum of Co-operation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and UNESCO’. The Memorandum:
gives UNESCO the responsibility of assisting the Palestinian authorities in developing and implementing projects in the fields of competence of the Organization - education, science, culture and communication;
outlines a joint UNESCO/PLO Plan of Action;
envisages elaboration of the Plan of Action in the form of projects over the short-, medium- and long-range to be financed by the international community, and immediate activities to be funded by extra-budgetary resources and UNESCO’s regular programme;
states that, regarding the launching of these immediate activities, UNESCO will provide US $2.5 million put at its disposal by Saudi Arabia and US $300,000 allocated from the regular programme;
anticipates the establishment of a UNESCO/PLO Joint Committee, to meet twice a year, as well as a co-ordination and consultation mechanism in the region and at UNESCO Headquarters to be set up for the purpose of preparing the Plan of Action, monitoring the implementation of the proposed activities and projects, and co-ordinating fund- raising activities;
identifies priorities of the Plan of Action in UNESCO’s spheres of competence, all of them aimed at promoting human resources development.
These priorities include assisting Palestinians in elaborating coherent educational policies and setting up planning and management mechanisms in order to ensure the development of education; developing suitable curricula and educational methods, as well as relevant teacher- training programmes; undertaking activities related to the history and cultural identity of the Palestinian people, with emphasis on the old city of Jerusalem, to help promote mutual understanding, peace and tolerance among Palestinians and Israelis in the region; developing projects related to renewable energies and the management of natural resources; and providing Palestinian authorities with urgently needed broadcasting facilities.
8. By a letter dated 20 December 1993, the Director-General conveyed his thanks to His Majesty King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud for his approval of UNESCO’s use of $2.5 million from the Saudi Arabian Trust Fund placed with the Organization for meeting urgent educational and cultural needs of the Palestinian people (as referred to in the PLO/UNESCO Memorandum of Co-operation). The Director-General expressed ‘deep gratitude for this noble gesture, testifying to your commitment to the ideals of UNESCO and in particular to the Organization’s mission in the field of peace and international understanding. This generous contribution will undoubtedly strengthen the peace efforts in the Middle East, to which UNESCO is resolved to contribute by all means at its disposal’.
9. In a ‘green note’ dated 22 December 1993, the Director-General announced the establishment within the Secretariat of a Co-ordination Unit, for the conception, co-ordination, implementation and evaluation of the activities to be undertaken within the framework of the PLO/UNESCO Memorandum of Co-operation. This action was consistent with paragraph 15(d) of 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 inviting the Director-General to appoint a co-ordinator responsible for monitoring the implementation of the operations called for in the decision, as well as for co-ordination among the sectors concerned.
10. In late December 1993 and early January 1994 the Secretariat granted fellowship awards totalling US $20,000 to ten university students from the occupied Golan, whose names and places of study had been provided to the Secretariat by the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of the Syrian Arab Republic to UNESCO, through a letter dated 22 December 1993. The Director-General had authorized release of these funds in response to a note verbal dated 24 June 1993 from the Permanent Delegate, regarding implementation of 141 EX/Decision 5.2.1 which had invited the Director-General ‘to provide in UNESCO’s fields of competence, the necessary assistance to educational establishments to preserve Syrian cultural identity and for the granting of scholarships to Golan students’.
11. From 4 to 14 January 1994, a mission on higher education in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was undertaken by UNESCO, at the invitation of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education. Composed of five academics and three UNESCO staff members, the mission had as an objective the review of the present situation of higher education, looking in particular into: programmes and curricula, adequacy of human resources and institutional facilities and services (libraries, laboratories, various service units, etc.), financial sources and sustainability, institutional framework and external linkages. The mission visited all eight universities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as several technical and community colleges. In keeping with 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 and the PLO/UNESCO Memorandum of Co-operation, the mission’s report identified the major issues facing tertiary level institutions, and advanced proposals and recommendations for their solution, through the joint effort of the local higher education authorities and institutions and with increased assistance by the international community.
12. In January 1994, the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to whose education programme 12 UNESCO posts are on loan for technical leadership and guidance, reached agreement to implement a mapping study of schools in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as a necessary first step in analysing the long-term school renovation and construction needs in the region.
13. In January 1994, US $300,000, was pledged at the Secretariat by the Government of Italy, to support the establishment of Phase I of a Palestinian Curriculum Centre (a priority identified in the PLO/UNESCO Memorandum of Co-operation). Because the Curriculum Centre project, the school mapping study and other UNESCO initiatives for Palestinian development had also been identified as desirable projects by the World Bank in its plans for the development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, discussions were held on 31 January 1994 at UNESCO Headquarters with Ms Sue Berryman, a member of the World Bank Task Force on Palestine, so that both organizations could exchange information on these priority items.
14. In a letter dated 4 February 1994, the Director-General communicated to the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO, the texts of 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 and of 27 C/Resolution 18, indicating that he was seeking the co-operation of the Permanent Delegate and his government to give effect to the said decision and resolution. The Director-General drew attention to the fact that the decision and resolution had invited him,
, ‘to take at once the measures . . . called for by the situation arising from the transfer of authority from the Israeli Government in the fields of education and culture to the Palestinian authorities as provided for in the “Declaration of principles”'. The Director-General assured the Israeli Government of his readiness to lend UNESCO’s support to promoting the favourable outcome of the peace process set in motion between the Arab States and Israel, and stated that he would, of course, ‘examine very attentively any possibility of having UNESCO contribute, in its fields of competence, to achieving and consolidating peace and harmony in the region’.
15. In a circular letter dated 25 February 1994, the Director-General requested Member States to contribute to a special UNESCO fund for fellowships to Palestinian students and to consider as well contributing sponsored fellowships to Palestinians. The letter reflected paragraph 15(c) (vii) of 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1, which invited the Director-General to pay the closest attention to the problems of ‘the establishment of a fund for study grants ...'.
16. In accordance with the Intersectoral Task Force report dated 19 October 1993 the Science Sector started a study on the Palestinian Diaspora aiming at facilitating the Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN). Since December 1993 all relevant institutions, associations and universities have been contacted to gather information. UNESCO’s role is to assist the Palestinian authorities in setting up a data base of those Palestinian experts who wish to volunteer their services and, if required, to facilitate their consultancy missions.
17. In December 1993 a survey of the water wells and springs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was commissioned by UNESCO. The purpose of the survey is to establish the state of the wells and the pumps and their need for maintenance, as well as to collect information on the quality of the water.
18. Retraining of unemployed science graduates is also being considered by UNESCO. In December 1993 a contract was signed with the Arab Scientific Institute in Ramallah for a study on the ways and means of updating the science graduates’ knowledge and/or providing them with new skills.
19. The Communication Sector participated in two meetings regarding the setting up of the future Palestinian radio-television network. The first meeting was held in Tunis in November 1993 between senior officials of the Department of Information and Communication of the PLO, representatives from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an expert from UNESCO. In this meeting UNESCO proposed to the Palestinian authorities to provide, in co-operation with the French Government, a production and audio-visual transmission unit.
20. UNESCO participated in the symposium held in Jerusalem from 5 to 8 January 1994 entitled ‘Palestinian broadcasting, promises and challenges’ covering all the aspects and stakes involved in setting up a Palestinian radio-television network.
21. In January 1994, UNESCO convened a co-ordination meeting to assess the activities already undertaken and to exchange information regarding further activities envisaged by each of the partners. The PLO Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, the European Commission, French Television and UNESCO staff members attended this meeting.
22. In February, a UNESCO staff member participated, as an expert, in a practical working mission concerning the use of the television mobile production unit.
23. The Culture Sector gave a fellowship for the year 1994/1995 to a Palestinian architect restorer at the University of Leuven, in Belgium, within the framework of its activities to prepare young Palestinians in the techniques of monument restoration.
24. In January, and at the request of the Executive Board and the General Conference, my personal representative Professor Lemaire paid a visit to Jerusalem. He visited two major monuments of the Holy City, the Qubbat al-Sakra on the Haram al-Sharif and the Holy Sepulchre. His report will be distributed in due course.
25. In February 1994 UNESCO sent a mission to Bethlehem, Gaza, Jericho, Jerusalem and Nablus to conduct a survey of the Palestinian cultural heritage and to prepare a conservation plan for Bethlehem at the request of the Mayor of Bethlehem. The Palestinian Co-ordination Unit will prepare proposals for submission to international donors for the preservation of historic monuments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
26. UNESCO has also carried out a study on the cultural needs of the Palestinian people. The study identified and proposed specific projects in support of cultural heritage, cultural identity, and modern culture and took into consideration activities related to the history of the Palestinian people and their cultural identity; such activities are essential for the promotion of mutual understanding, tolerance, and peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
27. In a response dated 17 February 1994 to the Director-General’s letter of 4 February regarding 142 EX/Decision 5.3.1 and 27 C/Resolution 18 (see para. 14 above), the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Israel to UNESCO, stated to the Director-General that the negotiations between Israel and the PLO ‘concerning the implementation of the Agreement of Principles for the Establishment of the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority in the frame of the “Gaza-Jericho first” option have made some notable progress since the signature of the said agreement - and especially through the Agreement reached in Cairo on 9 February 1994’. He added that ‘whilst we feel encouraged by the progress made, the negotiations for the transfer of authority from the Israeli Government to the Palestinians have not begun so far. It is therefore too early to envisage, in this respect, the co-operation offered by UNESCO’. In conclusion, he wrote to the Director-General: ‘We thank you for your offer, and shall no doubt apply for it, if and when, according to the progress made in the negotiations, the necessity to make use of it appears’.