On 13 July 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, made an official visit to the Congo where she took part in the opening ceremony of the Pan-African Music Festival (FESPAM) and the launch of a project to support training for 3,000 primary- and secondary-school teachers in the Congo.
On the same day, the Director-General met H.E. Mr Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo, who paid tribute to the high quality of relations between the Congo and UNESCO, and reaffirmed his country’s support for the Organization’s programmes.
At the FESPAM opening ceremony, the President underscored the Congo’s determination to implement the African Union’s decision to make the promotion of music a vector of African identity and a factor in the continent’s economic growth. In this respect, the President also emphasized the key role of the African diaspora, considered to be the sixth region of Africa, in the continent’s cultural impact. He stressed the need for UNESCO’s support to “prepare minds to be open to the right ideas” concerning respect for the environment and protection of biodiversity, through the creation of green jobs and ecotourism, components of sustainable development.
Ms Bokova reiterated her gratitude to the Head of the Congolese State for the generous contribution to UNESCO’s emergency fund, and welcomed the role played by H.E. Ambassador Adoua, Permanent Delegate of the Republic of the Congo, the country’s representative on the Executive Board and joint Chair of the working group on UNESCO’s priorities – a key element in the ongoing reform process. The Director-General assured the Head of State of the Organization’s support in establishing a number of projects in the Organization’s fields of competence. In particular, she called for the strengthening of two projects, the Slave Route and the pedagogical use of the General History of Africa, the ninth volume of which was being prepared. She also referred to the launch of the project to train 3,000 teachers, a strong commitment on the part of UNESCO to improving the quality of education. In the presence of all the ministers responsible for education, Ms Bokova said, in an address that was received with warm applause, that: “one does not become a teacher overnight … it is a profession, and I would go further to say that it is a profession requiring the utmost precision, as it affects the most subtle material that exists: the human mind”.
Ms Bokova ended her stay in the Congo with the inauguration of FESPAM, in the historical Félix Eboué stadium in Brazzaville, where she praised the musical tradition of the Congo, the hub of musical creativity in Africa, emphasizing the dual potential of music for dialogue among cultures and regional integration, and for economic and social development: “We must help those who give life to music to live from their music”.