On 15 May, during her official visit to Lebanon, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, met with Prime Minister Salam to take stock of the on-going cooperation between Lebanon and UNESCO and discuss priorities for strengthened support by the Organization to the country at this critical time.
Commending the efforts of the Lebanese Government and people, the Director-General expressed UNESCO’s solidarity and firm resolve to support and assist Lebanon in facing the numerous challenges created by the regional context, including the major influx of refugees caused by the Syria crisis, its impact on the country’s social fabric and cohesion, as well as on the delivery of basic social services, education in particular.
"We share the same commitment to values of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect for cultural diversity in society”, said the Director-General “and we stand by your side to step up international engagement so that this vision can prevail here in Lebanon. It is the most powerful response to extreme violence and sectarianism”, added Irina Bokova.
She highlighted UNESCO's continued efforts to advocate for the protection of the region’s rich cultural heritage and diversity as they are being systematically targeted and exposed to looting and trafficking in countries in the region, in particular Iraq and Syria. She also indicated UNESCO’s commitment to further support the education and engagement of young people in Lebanon – being they refugees or from host communities, stressing the critical role of education in preventing and protecting youth against radicalization and extreme violence.
In this regard, the Director-General informed the Prime Minister of the launch at the National Museum, the same day, of the #Unite4Heritage global campaign as part of broader awareness-raising and mobilization of young people to stand up for the safeguarding of heritage threatened by violent extremism and to provide a counter-narrative to sectarian propaganda.
During her visit, the Director-General also met with Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament, Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, as well as Raymond Araiji, Minister of Culture, to discuss on cooperation priorities and modalities between Lebanon and UNESCO in further details.
Prior to these meetings and on 14 May, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Bahia Harriri, President of the Parliamentary Commission for Education and Culture, hosted a dinner on the occasion of Europe Day and the Director-General’s visit. This event, joined by high-level representatives from the Lebanese society and the international community in Beirut, offered another opportunity for the Director-General to interact with national and international partners in the country.