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Unesco Pacific Countries Join Forces

PRESS RELEASE – 24 August 2001

Unesco Pacific Countries Join Forces

The Pacific member countries of UNESCO ended their bi-ennial consultation with a strategy of coordinated action for their participation in the next General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be held in Paris in October.

“A coordinated and collective action will benefit the whole Pacific region,” Samoa’s Education Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said in her opening address. The Minister has represented the Pacific Islands in UNESCO’s Executive Board since 1997. The Consultation was also attended by the Education Ministers of Fiji, Nauru, Tonga and Vanuatu, and other high level delegates from 14 countries.

“We have come together not only to prepare for the General Conference but to celebrate work in the Pacific region that the UNESCO family has carried out in the past two years in the fields of education, science, culture and communication,” the Head of UNESCO’s Pacific Office Mrs Edna Tait said.

Professor Ken Wiltshire from Australia, who also represents Pacific nations on UNESCO’s Executive Board, noted that the Pacific has been the fastest growing cluster of UNESCO countries. The Consultation was pleased to hear that Tokelau will join the Organization as an Associate Member later this year.

The Consultation identified regional priorities for UNESCO’s work in the next two years. These will be presented to the General Conference in October.

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The delegates welcomed the education strategy developed by the Pacific Ministers of Education earlier this year, noting that it included education for all with its emphasis on literacy. Technical and vocational education and a qualification framework for the Pacific are also in the strategy.

In science and culture, the meeting gave priority to sustainable development initiatives as well as strengthening Pacific participation in the world natural and cultural heritage work. Mrs Tait stressed that an ever-growing number of Pacific islands have become signatories to the world heritage convention. She said that the Pacific office will continue helping countries to identify sites which might qualify for the World Heritage list.

The delegates also gave priority to the development of and access to both traditional and new media, as well as expanding production of local content for radio, TV and the Internet.

The Consultation endorsed the nominations of Australia and Vanuatu to UNESCO’s Executive Board, which has traditionally had two Pacific members. Vanuatu will replace Samoa whose term will expire this year.

The Consultation passed a number of important resolutions, including an agreement to develop a strategy to gain an additional Pacific seat at the Executive Board of UNESCO, the lead speakers for each General Conference Session, as well as an appeal to strengthen the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States.

UNESCO is a member of the United Nations family with some 190 member states. It was created after the second World War to promote peace, mutual understanding and human development through education, science, culture and communication.

For further information:

Mrs Edna Tait
Fax: 685 26593
Tel: 685 24276
Email: edna@unesco.org.ws

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