On 1 June, during her official visit to Singapore, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The Director-General thanked the Prime Minister for welcoming her to Singapore and underlined the experience that the country has to share with countries across the world -- starting with sustainable urban development.
The Prime Minister noted the difficult challenge of striking a balance between the preservation and safeguarding of heritage with meeting economic and social demands.
The discussion followed on the urgency of building the foundations for sustainability by working to mobilise fully the potential of all women and men -- starting with relevant quality education, especially to provide young people with the skills they need.
"We need to get education right for people to get jobs," said the Prime Minister, noting that the sharing of best practices and the use of new technologies have extended learning opportunities to millions more people worldwide.
Irina Bokova presented UNESCO's work to take this goal forward, including through education for sustainable development and support to TVET. She highlighted the example of the Institute of Education in Singapore as a model in the area of teacher training that is prized by many countries. She noted also UNESCO's leading work in promoting a holistic and comprehensive goal for education in the post 2015 development agenda.
Continuing on the sustainability front, the Director-General drew the Prime Minister's attention to UNESCO's science programmes -- namely for water management, disaster risk reduction and, through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, on ocean science, tsunami early warning systems and marine protected areas.
Both the Prime Minister and the Director-General stressed the importance of a sense of urgency on climate change, referring to the UN Summit convened by the Secretary-General in September 2014 and COP 21 in France the following year, with which UNESCO is closely associated.
She also referred to her visit to the stunning Singapore Botanical Gardens, praising efforts made to preserve this heritage and foster awareness through education. The Gardens are the first nomination to have been submitted for consideration for World Heritage status by Singapore.
The Prime Minister underlined the importance of all this work by UNESCO, stressing that these policy areas were very much the focus of public policy in Singapore.
The Director-General noted the deepening partnership between UNESCO and ASEAN as a priority for the Organisation. She expressed her commitment to taking this further forward, including by working with Singapore through joint projects.
"I believe we can build great synergies across the region, by working together for a common vision of cooperation and sustainability," said Irina Bokova.
The Director-General thanked the Prime Minister for the constructive leadership of Singapore and its increasing engagement within UNESCO.
"You have a strong message and rich experience to share for the benefit of all."
During the visit, the Director-General also met with Acting Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Communications and Information and Chairman of the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, Lawrence Wong.
This meeting was an opportunity to review the cooperation between Singapore and UNESCO and look towards new modalities for taking it further through constructive "win-win arrangements".