Director-General visits Syria and signs agreement
UNESCO Director General Ms. Irina Bokova visited the Syrian Arab Republic from 22 to 25 April 2010. She met the Syrian President, the Vice President and the Ministers of Education, Higher Education and Culture. She also signed an agreement with the Minister of Education to establish a Regional Early Childhood Development Centre in Damascus.
Ms Bokova visited Palmyra, one of the cities listed on the World Heritage List, where she had a tour and a briefing on the city’s history and ancient civilizations in addition to visiting the museum. Together with her accompanying delegation, Bokova also visited Ma'lula, village where the Aramaic language is still spoken and the Aramaic language centre situated.
The Director-General discussed ways of cooperation between UNESCO and the Syrian Arab Republic with the Syrian President, and the latter asserted that culture and education are “the greatest guarantees to achieve prosperity and maintain stability in the region”. President Assad added that it is necessary to work to keep the spirit of Syria's diverse and open heritage alive in the daily lives of people through qualitative projects benefiting from the UNESCO experience in this regard in the future.
The Director-General elucidated that there is fertile ground for cooperation between the Syrian Arab Republic and UNESCO. She described the meeting with the Syrian President as “positive and encouraging”. Vice President Najah Al-Attar discussed with the Director-General the ongoing cooperation projects between the Syrian Arab Republic and the organization in the fields of culture and education and the means of expanding future cooperation. Al-Attar affirmed that the Syrian Arab Republic pays special importance to issues related to education and is keen to cooperate with UNESCO. He also praised the organization's role in education and culture in The Syrian Arab Republic.
The Vice President accentuated that The Syrian Arab Republic understands the importance of communication with other countries and seeks to undertake projects that achieve advancement, stressing the need for giving priority to sustainable development projects, informatics and education. Besides, Ms Bokova reiterated her confidence in Syria's active and influential role in the organization, congratulating The Syrian Arab Republic for the good results achieved in the field of education.
In 2009, the UNESCO 35th General Conference in Paris decided to establish the Regional Center for Early Childhood Development in Damascus. The Syrian Arab Republic was also elected as a member in the organization's Executive Board. Further, the Director General signed the official agreement of the Regional Centre for Early Childhood Development with the Syrian Minster of Education, and this centre is expected to pave the way for development and cooperation in this field with the Arab States and many other countries as well to help develop early childhood in the Arab Region.
In a meeting with the Minister of Higher Education Ghiath Barakat, the focus was on the prospects of cooperation in the field of higher education, including developing higher education curricula, providing financial grants to the students of the occupied Syrian Golan at the Syrian universities and establishing a UNESCO chair, possibly in the area of technology and science, at one of the Syrian universities.
Ms Bokova expressed keen interest in further improving UNESCO’s cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic. The meeting was attended by the Education Minister Ali Saad and Syria's Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Ghassan Nseir. The Director-General referred to her discussions with President Al-Assad who had underlined the role of education in bolstering social cohesion based on the roots of national identity and historical prospects and aspirations for the future. "Syria is such a unique place for laying down bridges that connect history, modern life and the future," she explained.
Ms. Bokova spoke about her visit to Ma'lula which is given great attention by President Al-Assad "not only for its importance in preserving Aramaic language, but also in order to keep it as a living example of the different cultures and religions which have lived together in peace over centuries."
Before leaving the country, the Director General expressed her satisfaction about her talks with the Syrian authorities and the agreement she had signed with the Education Ministry to establish a regional centre for early childhood development in Damascus.
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