UNESCO Regional Director and Representative to Kenya, courtesy visit to Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Following his appointment as Director of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa and Representative to Kenya, Prof. Hubert Gijzen paid a courtesy call to the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo on 9 August 2021.

Prof. Hubert Gijzen conveyed the message of goodwill from the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, who thanked the Government of Kenya for hosting UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi and, through its support and excellent working collaboration.

Ambassador Raychelle Omamo is a strong ally of UNESCO, having worked and interacted with the organization as Kenyan Ambassador to France and Kenya Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. She was happy to receive the UNESCO Regional Director in her Office and looked forward to continuing working together in Kenya, in a wide array of thematic areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Blue Economy and Ocean Decade, education, science among others. She expressed her wishes for the talks to resume on the organization of the Regional Workshop on Artificial Intelligence that was to be hosted in Kenya. She was also interested in receiving an update and status of World Heritage Sites in Kenya. As a promoter of girls’ education, she was happy that Kenya is taking lead in Africa to championing support for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and UNESCO is the lead coordinating Agency for Education.

Prof. Hubert Gijzen responded that Kenya is well represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List with currently 7 Sites inscribed and some 17 on the tentative list. He suggested that these sites, together with Biosphere Reserves and natural parks could serve as strong a basis for the development of a sustainable tourism strategy for the country and the region. He spoke about the UN reforms and the importance for UNESCO to engage and align with this. He reiterated his vision on how UNESCO is working together with the other UN agencies in Kenya, under the UN Reform and delivery as one for the support of the country.  For further collaboration and partnership, he mentioned UNESCO is supporting: digitalization of textbooks and other learning resources to be accessed offline and Online; to support Africa ‘build forward better’ UNCTs have developed Socio-economic response plans. He shared that all Response Plans in the region had two key areas in common, i.e. the need for Africa’s Green Transformation, and Digitization.  He referred to a new flagship programme, led by UNESCO in collaboration with other UN agencies, which   combines ICT with renewal energy for rural off-grid communities, targeting specifically  women and youth, as a game  changer for rural communities. He suggested that this programme could be strategically positioned to ensure accelerated SDG achievement for rural off-grid communities in Eastern Africa as well.

He further emphasized the importance of Green TVET, and mentioned that UNESCO Nairobi Office is implementing BEAR II project funded by Republic of Korea (TVET) in developing green skills for young people and building capacities of TVET institutions. The Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), a water management program with an ongoing project in Turkana.

Ambassador Raychelle Omamo was exited to learn about these ideas and initiatives, and agreed that these are important areas for cooperation, which will support SDG achievement in the country, especially for those usually most left behind. She emphasized the importance to focus on the relationship between (off-grid) communities, digitalization, green economy, TVET, innovation and entrepreneurship development. However, she recognized that there are some gaps especially in the engagement of rural communities, “We need to empower the community to fill this gap”. She stated an example of her community leaving near the lake, but not benefiting from water. Informal settlement also has to be involved and engaged in their own development. She further noted that COVID-19 has shown us to move forward; not to ‘build back better’, but indeed to ‘build forward better’. To achieve this, we must work together.

The Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs wished the new Regional Director and Representative to Kenya, Prof. Hubert Gijzen success in his new mission and is looking forward to working closely with UNESCO.

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