Director-General meets the President of the Republic of Cuba, H.E. Raúl Castro

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© Presidency of the Republic of Cuba

On 18 September, the Director-General met the President of the Republic of Cuba, H.E. Raúl Castro, accompanied by H.E. Bruno Rodríguez Parilla, Minister of External Relations.

The Director-General congratulated Cuba for the role as Chair of the 3rd Meeting of Ministers of Culture of CELAC (Comunidad de Estados de América Latina y Caribe) and for hosting UNESCO’s workshop for the validation of a Work Plan on Culture for Latin America and the Caribbean for 2016-2021. 

She especially thanked the President for Cuba’s support to UNESCO’s efforts related to the inclusion of culture in the post-2015 development agenda, highlighting the instrumental role played by the country in the Group of Friends on Culture and Development (which gathers 33 Members States from all regions, including Cuba).

The president expressed appreciation for the longstanding cooperation between UNESCO and Cuba, notably through the Regional Bureau for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, established in 1950, which is the oldest UNESCO's structure away from Headquarters, working hand in hand with the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO, chaired by Mr Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, who is also Representative of Cuba to the Executive Board.

The discussion continued on Cuba’s support to the Organization’s initiatives in all its fields of competence.

The Director-General paid special tribute to the President’s work to strengthen peace, especially in the Latin America and Caribbean region, presenting him with the “Tree of Peace” sculpture, created by UNESCO Artist for Peace Hevda Ser.

On the margins of the 3rd Meeting of Ministers of Culture of CELAC (Comunidad de Estados de América Latina y Caribe), the Director-General held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Culture, H.E. Julián González Toledo.

During this meeting, Cuba's strong interest on tangible and intagible heritage, as well as on cultural diversity, were reaffirmed, and Anniversaries to which UNESCO is associated were explained in detail. 

The International UNESCO/José Marti Prize, whose purpose is to promote and reward an activity of outstanding merit in accordance with the ideal and spirit of the Cuban politician and writer, will be awarded in January 2016, in the context of the Second International Conference "With All and for the Good of All" (Con Todos y por el Bien de Todos), labeled "under the patronage of UNESCO". 

The Director-General met separately H.E. Ena Elsa Velázquez , Minister of Education, who expressed satisfaction for Cuba's exchanges of good practices with many countries in the framework of alfabetization and education for all. She explained that the success of vocatonal training is based on guidance and continuous support provided to students from early age untill their entrance on the labour market. Climate change education, and UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) with 76 schools spread throughout the province's, were also the core of the discussion. 

The Director-General also met H.E. Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz, Minister of Higher Education, with whom she discussed the new Objectives for Sustainable Development, which are normative, universal, concensual and intergovernmental. 

Within the current changing trends, the Minister shared Cuba's vision for higher education, which with an important humanist component in curricula, will aim at not only providing knowledge to students but also education for global citizenship. 

Discussion continued on education in basic sciences, quality and inclusive education, the role of universities in societies, recognition of diplomas, higher educational institutions ranking, and finally, the International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC). 

During the official visit to Cuba, and on the occasion of UNESCO's 70th Anniversary, the Director also paid a tribute to Mr Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of the City of Havana, for his continuous commitment and energetic and innovative approach to the rehabilitation of Old Havana and its fortifications, which are a UNESCO world hertitage site since 1982. She highlighted the results of the restoration of the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, a masterpiece of Cuban architecture of the 18th century located in Arms Square, and today a new center to strengthen cultural dialogue in the region.