Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TT UNESCO Rep asks US Secretary of State to support Caribbean SIDS UNESCO agenda

 (UNESCO: Paris)
The near US$400 million debt owed by the United States of America to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and its potential value in advancing UNESCO’s work in the Caribbean and elsewhere were placed before US Secretary of State Senator John Kerry in a meeting as the Trinidad and Tobago Representative to the UNESCO Executive Board.
“We are working it out,” Senator  Kerry responded, when he met members of the Board us at one-on-one discussions during a luncheon hosted by the US Representative on the Board, Ambassador Crystal Nix-Hines, following an address to Board members at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters on Sunday (November 18). Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova described the US debt as “a small problem to fix”, and efforts were being made to “work it out.”
I drew to Senator Kerry's attention that the Caribbean, as the small island neighbours of the United States, could benefit tremendously from resumption of its payments. This amounts to more than one fifth of UNESCO's total budget - some 22 percent and has resulted in cuts in several programme and other initiatives as the debt was accumulating since 2011 and escalated as the US suspended payments and subsequently lost its voting rights in UNESCO. in 2013 over the admittance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO.
I drew to Senator Kerry's attention that the additional mandate of UNESCO for protection of Oceans and special focus on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, along with its traditional focus on culture, education, science and information and told Senator Kerry that while there has been tremendous focus on the science associated with Oceans with risks of of climate change and sea level rise, the Oceans to the Caribbean also held tremendous underplayed cultural value and part of the migration memory of its ancient, colonial and contemporary history, along with it being a resource for fishing, tourism and transport. I pointed out the region’s vulnerability with its open borders to arms, narcotics and human trafficking required concerted international action and funding and resourcing.
In direct response, Kerry affirmed the US commitment and support to combating arms, narcotics and human trafficking and to UNESCO in shared efforts at building a culture of peace across the world.
The United States is seeking re-election to the UNESCO Executive Board at elections carded to take place at the upcoming UNESCO General Conference in November 2015.
In his earlier address, Kerry commended UNESCO’s work on sustainable development and Oceans and emphasised the importance of education, announcing that the US and UNESCO will engage other partners for the first-ever conference on “Preventing Violent Extremism through Education” at the General Conference.
He also asserted that the US was committed to Freedom of Expression and protection of journalists, commending UNESCO’s work in these areas.
Kris Rampersad will chair the Education Commission at the General Conference, is a journalist and independent development educator/consultant, the UNESCO-trained heritage expert for the English-speaking Caribbean and has served as an independent member of UNESCO’s international intergovernmental committee on intangible cultural heritage.
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Photo caption:
1.       (From L)  US Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry greets Trinidad and Tobago Representative to the UNESCO Executive Board, Dr Kris Rampersad at a luncheon held at UNESCO by the US Representative, Crystal Nix Hines. Photo Courtesy UNESCO/Pilar Chiang-Joo. All Rights Reserved

2.       US Secretary of State, John Kerry and US UNESCO representative Crystal Nix-Hines discuss UNESCO fun Caribbean issues with Trinidad and Tobago Representative to the UNESCO Executive Board, Dr Kris Rampersad who proposed sustainable development priorities of the Caribbean and Small Island Development States during a luncheon meeting hosted by the US for members of the UNESCO Executive Board and permanent delegates to UNESCO at UNESCO headquarters, Paris, on Sunday (November 19).  Photo Courtesy UNESCO/Pilar Chiang-Joo. All Rights Reserved.

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