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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

06 June 2003

U.N. Education Agency to Quicken Efforts in Northern Iraq

(UNESCO also negotiating for programs in other parts of country) (2530)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) will expedite the implementation of the remainder of its $22
million in commitments for programs in Northern Iraq before the Oil
for Food Program is phased out in November, the agency's director
general said.
Speaking June 6 to ambassadors and permanent delegates to the
organization in Paris, Koïchiro Matsuura said UNESCO also is
negotiating with Oil for Food Program managers at U.N. headquarters in
New York about implementing in southern and central Iraq some of the
educational activities that are the responsibility of the Iraqi
government but have stopped since the military conflict.
The U.N. Oil for Food Program has allowed Iraq to sell its oil to
finance the purchase of humanitarian goods and various United Nations
programs in Iraq.
Through a $10 million program with the support of the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) UNESCO will make five million
science and mathematics textbooks available to Iraqi primary and
secondary students in the coming school year beginning in September,
he said.
Reactivating functioning educational institutions and ensuring the
completion of the current academic year is another important goal of
UNESCO, Matsuura said.
The agency will organize a seminar in July in Suleimaniya, in northern
Iraq, on higher education for the northern districts in cooperation
with local authorities, he said.
A separate conference expected to be held in September will focus on a
post-needs assessment educational reconstruction and renewal plan, he
added. The agency will emphasize national coherence in the approach to
formal and non-formal education, he said.
Using a "considerable number" of international and national staff to
help it carry out its programs in Iraq, Matsuura said UNESCO will work
with Iraqi educators and administrators on:
-- policy formation,
-- educational planning and management,
-- revising and replacing textbooks and teacher training materials,
-- teacher training, and
-- information and communication technologies for open and distance
Following is the transcript of Matsuura's remarks as delivered:
(begin text)
Madam Chairperson, Mr. President, Excellencies, 
Let me now turn to the question of education. A huge challenge for all
concerned, education clearly has an important place within
humanitarian assistance programmes and it is indispensable within the
longer-term processes of reconstruction and development.
We stand ready to assist Iraq in whatever ways we can and, as I shall
point out, there are several concrete steps that we have already taken
or shall take in the immediate future. Looking further ahead, we shall
continue to develop our educational strategy, refining it so that we
engage effectively with the reconstruction and renewal of Iraq's
education system. Today, that system faces enormous problems but, just
a few years ago, prior to 1990, it was the most advanced in the Arab
region. However, under the impact of war, dictatorship, sanctions,
neglect and isolation, that system fell into a serious decline which
has been exacerbated by the destruction, looting and disruption that
has occurred since March of this year. In effect, Iraq's education
system must be re-built, and it will be a huge task. It is important,
therefore, to be realistic but it is equally important to be
optimistic. I believe that, despite its low point today, education in
Iraq has the potential to become a great success. UNESCO must do all
it can to facilitate the achievement of that success.
Let me turn first to UNESCO's involvement in humanitarian assistance
for Iraq. Much of UNESCO's work in Iraq in recent years has taken
place under the umbrella of the Oil-for-Food Programme. In the
Centre/South, our role was limited to monitoring the distribution by
the Iraqi authorities of supplies to secondary and tertiary education
institutions. Together with UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund],
UNESCO monitored the importation and use of some $251 million worth of
educational supplies imported by the Ministry of Education. In
addition, UNESCO was responsible for monitoring all of the $309
million worth of educational supplies imported by the Ministry of
Higher Education. In recent years, we were able also to engage in some
capacity-building through assistance to the in-service training of
supervisors and secondary school teachers, using extrabudgetary
In Northern Iraq, UNESCO's work has been more substantive. We have
been been directly responsible for programme implementation at the
secondary and tertiary levels on behalf of the Government of Iraq. The
education system caters to some 240,000 students at the secondary
level, 4,500 in vocational schools, 7,000 in teacher training
institutions and 22,000 in institutions of higher education. To date,
education programme implementation in Northern Iraq using Oil for Food
financing has totalled some $76 million, covering education supplies,
infrastructure development and training. Further details about our
participation in the Oil-for-Food Programme can be found in the
Situation Analysis of Education in Iraq, prepared by UNESCO's Iraq
team in April 2003, which has been made available to you all today. In
view of the forthcoming phasing out of the Oil for Food Programme in
November 2003, UNESCO will expedite the implementation of its
outstanding commitments of US$ 22 million for Northern Iraq. We are
also negotiating with the Oil for Food management team in New York
about implementing, in South and Central Iraq, some of the activities
under the responsibility of the Iraqi government which were
interrupted by the conflict and which have been left in abeyance.
Thanks in large part to its participation in the Oil for Food
Programme, UNESCO is presently able to draw upon the services of a
considerable number of international and national staff, who have
helped us considerably in elaborating the Organization's education
strategy for Iraq. These specialists have been collaborating with
members of other agencies and organizations based in Larnaka, Amman,
Baghdad and Northern Iraq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator's office in
Baghdad, international and Iraqi education experts, NGOs, UNESCO field
offices, institutes and regional networks. Two UNESCO education
specialists are based within the Humanitarian Coordinator's Office in
Larnaka, to ensure effective liaison with sister agencies.
Looking beyond the finalization of the Oil for Food Programme, there
are a number of urgent tasks which must be fulfilled if the confidence
of the Iraqi people in their education system is to be restored,
thereby creating a sense of normalcy and hope in the future of their
country. Reactivating the functioning of educational institutions and
ensuring the completion of the current academic year (September
2002-May 2003), interrupted by the conflict in mid-March, will be
important steps in this direction.
One of these steps is to make preparations for holding examinations to
complete the 2002/2003 academic year. UNESCO is already assisting the
authorities in the Northern Governorates to hold the examinations in
June/July by providing the required materials and transport for
In the Centre and the South, we are providing paper and stationery for
school examinations. Negotiations are under way between our local
staff, Ministry officials and the Coalition forces to ensure logistics
and security for the examination centres.
With regard to textbooks, I am pleased to announce that UNESCO will
make 5 million science and mathematics textbooks available to Iraqi
primary and secondary school students for the forthcoming school year.
This U.S. $10 million textbook programme is being undertaken with
support from, and in cooperation with, the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID). UNESCO will manage this effort in
full cooperation with other partners, including Iraq's Ministry of
Education, Iraqi 10 educators, textbook specialists, private sector
companies (especially for book production), other UN organizations and
agencies, and various other partners.
This action will involve some minimal changes to existing textbooks to
ensure that their content is accurate and does not contribute to
distrust, discrimination, intercultural misunderstanding, or hate.
UNESCO will supervise this textbook revision process, making every
effort to involve Iraqi nationals in the process from the beginning
and taking into account the diversity of the country. It will work
through a Technical Advisory Council to ensure both transparency and
contributions from a range of perspectives. UNESCO will also organize
the printing and distribution of the textbooks.
UNESCO is involved in two additional aspects of early-stage
assistance. We have been requested by the local interim Ministry of
Education and Ministry of Higher Education authorities in Baghdad to
provide them some basic materials and equipment to improve the
functioning of their offices.
In addition, UNESCO is participating in the process of updating the
inter-agency Flash Appeal, which had been prepared in March, taking
into consideration the current local needs and the evolution of the
situation on the ground. The revised Humanitarian Appeal for Iraq will
be launched on 23 June at UN Headquarters in New York. UNESCO's
requests in the Appeal concentrate on secondary and post-secondary
education while UNICEF's focus is upon primary education.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Let me now turn to the medium-and long-term
perspective. The guiding principle of UNESCO's interventions will be
to accompany and assist the national education authorities in
achieving the EFA [Education for All] goals and preparing young people
for their responsibilities as citizens in a democratic society. The
Organization will place emphasis on the fostering of national
coherence and the need for a sector-wide approach to education, formal
and non-formal, so that it can contribute to consolidating national
unity and the reconciliation process.
Such orientations, of course, need to be contextualized and made
relevant to the concrete requirements of the situation. For this
reason, it is vital that a quick but thorough survey of actual needs
inside Iraq is undertaken. UNESCO will participate in the UNDG [U.N.
Development Group] inter-agency rapid needs assessment process, which
is aimed at identifying key areas for which funds need to be
mobilized. UNESCO is proposing to undertake assessments at the level
of secondary, vocational, technical and higher education, and also, in
partnership with UNICEF, at the primary education level. This exercise
is anticipated to take about 3-4 months and will involve UNESCO's
international team in Iraq, local staff and specialists. To support
our work in conducting the rapid needs assessment, we are in the
process of securing substantial financial assistance from the
Government of Japan in the modality of Funds-in-Trust.
The needs assessment process will feed into the preparation of the
reconstruction plan for Iraq, which, as I informed you earlier, will
be the subject of a conference, which will probably be held in
September 2003.
As you can appreciate, the situation inside Iraq is not yet generally
conducive to reconstruction as such. However, it is important to
recognize that humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities
can and often do run concurrently. In this regard, it may be noted
that in the special circumstances of Iraq, UNESCO's education
component in the Oil for Food Programme did include actions relating
to the higher education sector in Northern Iraq. Even at this
relatively early stage, we are seeking to make a bridge between these
special arrangements and the 'normalization' of programme activities
in the perspective of reconstruction. For example, UNESCO is
organizing next month, in cooperation with the local authorities, a
seminar in Suleimaniya, Northern Iraq, on higher education for the
Northern governorates. The seminar will take stock of the current
situation and consider future policy options.
Furthermore, we are in discussion with Her Highness Sheikha Mozah of
Qatar, UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, who has
generously offered support for the recovery of higher education in
Iraq. We are also in contact with several other parties in regard to
higher education. It is particularly important that the needs
assessment process includes higher education so that policies for the
development and organization of the university sector can be based
upon a sound factual foundation.
In the framework of its education strategy, UNESCO's main efforts
regarding educational reconstruction and renewal will focus on
capacity-building. Our aim will be to provide technical assistance and
training for Iraqi specialists, teachers and administrators in the
following key areas:
1. policy formulation, sector review and system renewal;
2. educational planning and management;
3. curriculum reform, renewal and development;
4. revision and renewal of textbooks and teaching/learning materials;
5. initial and in-service teacher training;
6. ICTs??? in support of education, including open and distance
To implement the educational strategy I have outlined, it will be
necessary to ensure a strong and continuing UNESCO presence in Iraq,
working within the UN framework and in complementarity with other
partners. In the immediate post-conflict period, the technical
capacities of the UNESCO specialists available under the Oil for Food
Programme will be drawn upon.
However, given the magnitude of the problems to be addressed,
particularly in the Centre and the South, UNESCO will have to mobilize
additional resources over and above those foreseen under the ongoing
Oil for Food Programme, where UNESCO's technical services were
essentially available for the three Northern governorates.
Naturally, we shall continue to seek extra- budgetary funding, which
will be especially crucial when the Oil for Food Programme phases out.
We have good prospects of securing extra-budgetary funding, especially
in the field of culture, but reliance upon such funding will not
guarantee the continuity and coherence of UNESCO's engagement. In this
regard, UNESCO is in a favourable position in that the US$610 million
scenario promises to bring additional resources that will make a real
difference to our action in Iraq.
But budgetary resources alone are not enough. We also need the human
resources which will give us an energetic, dynamic and visible
presence on the ground. For this reason, it is essential that we
establish a UNESCO office in Baghdad and I intend to make a proposal
to this effect at the next session of the Executive Board in
September. In the meantime, I shall ensure that, through experts and
staff on short-term assignment for several weeks, UNESCO will build a
base of human resources inside Iraq. In this way, we shall be able to
coordinate and implement activities and play a strong role within the
UN system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in my view, educational renewal is indispensable
for making Iraq a thriving, prosperous and peaceful country. An Iraq
of this kind --- modern, developed, open and engaged actively with the
worlds of science, technology, communication, and culture --- would be
a boon to its region and the wider world. The potential of Iraq to
become a powerhouse not of war but of economic development and
scientific-intellectual vitality is enormous. The removal of the
shackles of dictatorship and oppression creates fresh chances for
building a more open and harmonious society. And let us not forget
that war and militarism imposed enormous opportunity costs on Iraqi
society; in a future where spending on armaments and armies will be
much reduced, the massive oil resources of the country can be
harnessed for all aspects of development. In this regard, Iraq has a
privileged opportunity to invest in education, science, culture and
communication and, through the enrichment of its human resources, to
make a new start. I would like UNESCO to help Iraq move in this
Thank you.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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