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The Director-General, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first official visit to St Lucia from 13 to 15 February 2005. It was the first official visit of a UNESCO Director-General to the country. He was accompanied by Mr Gilbert Chagoury, Permanent Delegate of St Lucia to UNESCO.
During his visit, the Director-General met with the highest authorities in the country. In particular, he held bilateral meetings with Dame Pearlette Louisy, the Governor-General; Mr Kenny Davis Anthony, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, International Financial Services and Economic Affairs and Information; and Mr Mario Michel, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Human Resources Development, Youth & Sport. He also attended a meeting of Cabinet Ministers, chaired by Mr Anthony. The discussions with the various St Lucia authorities provided an opportunity for exchanges of views on how the already fruitful cooperation between St Lucia and UNESCO can be strengthened. Areas of concern included the safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, warning systems and preparedness for disasters (particularly for tsunamis), education for all and education for sustainable development.
One of the high points of the Director-General's visit was his participation in the official ceremony for the inscription of St Lucia's Pitons Management Area on the World Heritage List, which was attended by many high dignitaries, including the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, and Sir Derek Walcott, one of St Lucia's two Nobel Prize winners. This natural heritage site, with its Soufrière Volcanic Centre and its two pitons, is St Lucia's first inscription on the World Heritage List.
In his address at the ceremony, the Director-General congratulated the St Lucia Government for obtaining this first inscription, which he described as "an occasion for boosting national pride and increasing a society's commitment to protecting and developing (heritage) in a sustainable manner". He went on to highlight the benefits of the inscription for St Lucia, in particular in the form of international funding and heightened tourism, as well as its wider significance for the Caribbean through the securing of better representation on the World Heritage List. Recalling the importance accorded to cultural diversity and cultural heritage in the Strategy Document adopted at the Mauritius International Meeting for Small Island Developing States (11-13 January 2005), the Director-General expressed the hope that St Lucia and the wider Caribbean would soon become parties to the 2003 Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
At the Folk Research Centre, Mr Matsuura saw an example of St Lucian cultural heritage in the form of the revitalised masquerade dancing and costume-making tradition. This revitalisation is being carried out within the framework of a project that was supported by UNESCO through its Italian Funds-in-Trust programme.
Mr Matsuura also held a meeting and had lunch with members of St Lucia's private sector and the non-governmental and voluntary communities. His address to the gathering focused on the particular challenges faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and on the much-needed partnership, in an interdependent world, between UNESCO, the private sector and civil society.
Other visits made during the Director-General's stay were those to the opening session of the ASPNet Youth Parliament, the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, and the St Lucia National Commission for UNESCO.