PARIS, France -- Trinidad and Tobago has offered to share its knowledge and experiences of multiculturalism and diversity management with the global UNESCO community, as it took its seat on the executive board of UNESCO for the first time in 16 years.
Trinidad and Tobago representative Dr Kris Rampersad addresses the opening session of the newly constituted UNESCO executive board in Paris, France. Photo courtesy UNESCO
Congratulating the representative from Egypt, Mohamed Sameh Amr, a lawyer, as the uncontested newly-appointed chair of the executive board at its 193rd meeting, Dr Kris Rampersad, chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, who represented Trinidad and Tobago, stated:
“On behalf of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Economic Community of which Trinidad and Tobago is the current chair and our Latin American associates, we pledge to work with you to promote and expand UNESCO’s vision of building a culture of peace in the minds of men and women.
“We look forward to benefitting from your knowledge, and we also offer our humble experiences in peacefully managing the diversity of virtually all the cultures of the world from within our very small island space where multiculturalism is alive and well - comprising our indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as the migrants from Europe: Spanish, French, Dutch, Britain, Africa, India, China, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the globe.”
To the new chair and board; the new president to the UNESCO General Assembly, Hao Ping from China, re-elected director general Irina Bokova and staff and associates of UNESCO present at the meeting, she said: “We are committed to working with you and the executive board towards projecting the vision of the director general for a new humanism, that will return our priorities to people-centred development, inclusivity, equity and freedom and fairness for all.”
Rampersad thanked and congratulated the outgoing chair, Alissandra Cummins of Barbados for flying the region’s flag high.
Noting the Caribbean’s extended ties through its diasporas with the various UNESCO regions, Rampersad pointed out the absence of the Caribbean community in a higher education initiative involving Africa and reminded UNESCO to remember in such initiatives the significant diasporas in the Caribbean region that were trying to evolve culturally-sensitive education actions.
This was during the Executive Board’s examination of preliminary programmes and projects for the coming year. In an immediate response, the director general acknowledged the oversight and promised to expand the composition of targeted groups and institutions in this regard.
Trinidad and Tobago, through Dr Tim Gopeesingh during the General Assembly, has already tabled at UNESCO a concept for inclusion of special needs children – which amount to about 30 percent of the world’s children – among actions in other programme areas of heritage and culture, communications and science and better recognition of the economic, social and cultural value of the Caribbean Sea.
Rampersad was part of the four-member delegation who attended the UNESCO General Conference.
Led by president of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission and Minister of Education, Dr Gopeesingh, the team included Ambassador John Sandy, Trinidad and Tobago’s permanent representative in Geneva, and Susan Shurland, secretary general of the National Commission.
Trinidad and Tobago was one of three new CARICOM members – including Belize and St Kitts -- to join the 58-member board for 2013 to 2017 term, after a hiatus of 16 years, winning membership with support from al UNESCO regional divisions in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas with the highest number of votes in its region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago previously served on the UNESCO executive board from 1993 to 1997, when it was represented by Professor Lawrence Carrington; and from 1985 to 1988 by the late Sheilah Solomon who was recognised by UNESCO as one of 60 women of the world contributing to constructing a Foundation of Peace.