PARIS, France — Irwin LaRocque, secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on Monday committed to strengthening relations between the two organisations with the signing of a revised memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The signing ceremony took place in Paris, France, at the 37th general conference of UNESCO, during a session between CARICOM and the UNESCO director-general, ten years after the last MOU was signed.
“The signing of this MOU today will certainly take our cooperation further as we implement the programmes so critical to the development of our countries and societies and to the quality of life of the people of the Caribbean Community,” LaRocque said.
The revised MOU will build on the existing co-operation between CARICOM and UNESCO and will address some of the emerging issues that now underpin the Community’s development in more fundamental ways, LaRocque said. Those issues included building inclusive knowledge societies, fostering innovation, inculcating appropriate life skills, and addressing inter-connected issues that addressed the Region’s development needs.
The secretary-general noted that some of those issues would feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals, and added that the cultural component of the agreement also addressed capacity-building for cultural industries which was of specific relevance to CARICOM, particularly with regard to the recently approved CARICOM cultural industry strategy which was being rolled out.
Acknowledging the mutually beneficial relationship between CARICOM and UNESCO, the secretary-general expressed deep appreciation to the director-general and to UNESCO for their cooperation and collaboration and looked forward to the deepening of the engagement in the coming years.
In his remarks, the secretary-general said that CARICOM was known and respected internationally for its many traditional as well as contemporary, cultural expressions in areas such as music, art, craft, the literary and culinary arts, fashion, festivals and theatre.
Over the past biennium, the increased efforts by UNESCO with regard to awareness-building and the importance of preservation of its intangible cultural heritage have been of significant benefit to the region. The Community’s many traditions, indigenous medicines, beliefs, stories, symbols and songs which constitute a vital part of the rich cultural heritage of our people “make us distinct and unique”, he said.
“CARICOM member states therefore have a deeply vested interest in the preservation, protection and promotion of this rich cultural heritage. This commitment is based on the belief in the importance of safeguarding our cultural heritage for our next generation, to preserve the rich knowledge and skills of our societies and ensure that these are transferred from generation to generation. This contributes to social cohesion and engenders a sense of our Caribbean identity and a sense of belonging.
“We are also keenly aware of the need to improve the preservation of our architectural heritage and in this regard we welcomed with enthusiasm in 2011, the addition of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison to the List of World Heritage Sites. We look forward to the assistance of UNESCO in capacity-building for preparing our Community to have further sites listed,” the secretary-general said at the ceremony.