BAGHDAD—Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and visiting UNESCO Director General Koïchiro Matsuura signed three memoranda of understanding in the areas of higher education and culture on May 7. The agreements are part of a programme to help Iraq overcome the recession the country has experienced over the past few years by promoting Iraq's civilisation and cultural heritage.
Al-Maliki said, "Iraq has an honourable history that drives us forward in the pursuit of modernity. It was home to ancient civilisations, including the Sumerian and Babylonian civilisations. We are now progressing on the path of science and culture. We must reach out and reject self-imposed isolation from developments taking place elsewhere in the world."
He added, "Our country, which suffered a great deal due to the policies of the former regime, is today living in an atmosphere of democracy and scientific and cultural progress. The stability we are witnessing has encouraged us to pursue educational development. For this reason, we have launched an educational initiative and decided to send thousands of students to study at universities around the world."
UNESCO special envoy Sheikha Mozah responded that her organisation "is fully prepared to assist in supporting scientific and cultural development in Iraq. Iraq is regarded as the cradle of civilisation, culture, literature, and the arts throughout history." She also stressed that UNESCO is looking forward to seeing Iraq regain its historical role.
The UNESCO delegation visiting Baghdad expressed its willingness to continue collaborating with Iraq in the areas of education, culture, teaching, and the rehabilitation of Iraqi universities, especially medical schools. UNESCO has long worked to train educational, cultural and academic staffs and to rehabilitate cultural centres to enable them to again promote education and culture.
UNESCO has already contributed significantly to bolster the cultural, scientific, and educational capacities of the state of Iraq since the fall of the former regime in April 2003. It played a special role in preserving the heritage of ancient Iraq and reopening the Iraq Museum. It is currently supervising the reconstruction of the Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra and has supported many other cultural and educational activities in the country.
Source: Statement of the Office of the Prime Minister