Director-General in Haiti to support country’s recovery
“I have come to express UNESCO’s solidarity with Haiti,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on Tuesday, the first day of her 48-hour official visit to Port-au Prince. “I am here to see the situation with my own eyes and to see how UNESCO can best support the government of Haiti at this crucial time for the Haitian people.”
During the day, Ms Bokova met with the Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, and the Minister of Education, Joel Desrosiers Jean-Pierre, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations in order to design and deliver projects that will help to repair the country’s social and cultural fabric.
Regarding culture, Ms Bokova reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to do its utmost for Haiti’s cultural heritage, largely destroyed in the 12 January earthquake and now threatened by vandalism, looting and illicit art trafficking. UNESCO has taken steps to establish an International Coordination Committee (CIC) for Haitian culture to bring together all the organizations concerned with the rehabilitation of the country’s culture, directed by the Haitian government.
Ms Bokova also visited CECOSIDA, a national communications centre against AIDS, which has been providing psychological and post-traumatic support to journalists, with UNESCO’s backing. “In the aftermath of the disaster, the media have a key role to play in rebuilding the nation,” stressed Ms Bokova.
In education, Ms Bokova reiterated UNESCO’s aim to “assist the ministry in re-establishing the educational system in the short term, with emergency measures for now, but also in addressing education at all levels, from primary school to university.” Objectives are to increase the number of children in school throughout the country and to prevent brain-drain.
Today the Director-General will visit Jacmel, in southeast Haiti, with the Haitian-born Governor-General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean. The city, founded in the late 17th century, suffered extensive damage in the earthquake on 12 January and many of its historical buildings collapsed. Jacmel is on Haiti’s Tentative List of properties to be proposed for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Ms Bokova will also attend the launch in Camp-Perrin of a training programme to teach builders to construct earthquake resistant structures.
On 24 March, UNESCO is organizing a Forum in Paris entitled “Rebuilding the social, cultural and intellectual fabric of Haiti”, in which Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive will participate. The forum will bring Haitian intellectuals, artists and decision-makers together with international experts in order to define Haiti’s short-, medium- and long-term goals and discuss strategies for its reconstruction.
After Haiti, Ms Bokova will visit the Dominican Republic, notably to meet with President Leonel Fernandez.