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3rd Edition of the Kenya Week at UNESCO
The 3rd edition of the Kenya week at UNESCO was held from 10th to 14th October, 2016 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, under the theme, “Driving Peace and Sustainable Development through Culture.” The Kenya week coincided with the 200th session of the Executive Board, a main governing body of UNESCO of which Kenya is a member.
The event was planned and coordinated by the Permanent Delegation of Kenya to UNESCO together with the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO in collaboration with the Kenya Embassy in Paris and other key stakeholders that included the Office of the Deputy President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, the Department of Museums, The Kenya Tourism Board, Kenya Airways, the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenyans living in France among others.
The main objective of the Kenya week in Paris was to enhance visibility of the Kenya-UNESCO collaboration, showcase Kenya's rich cultural and natural heritage in line with Kenya’s Foreign Policy which recognizes culture as one of its key pillars. Kenya is endowed with rich natural and cultural heritage and diversity, history and other amazing natural phenomena such as breathtaking landscape that preserves a wealth of historic structure, archeological sites, sacred sites and traditional cultural properties that form an important part of kenya’s shared heritage.
The Kenya week was also aimed at promoting Kenya as an ideal investment and top tourist destination and call for stronger collaboration and partnership with UNESCO and other stakeholders across UNESCO’s five fields of competence namely; Education, Culture, Natural Sciences, Social Human Sciences and Communication and Information.
KEY ACTIVITIES OF THE KENYA WEEK
Opening Ceremony on 10th October 2016
The official opening ceremony of the Kenya Week was held on Monday, 10th October 2016. The event was officially inaugurated by the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Hon. William Samoei Ruto as the chief guest. The event was graced by the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova.
High level representatives from Kenya included Prof. Collette Suda, Principal Secretary, State Department of Higher Education; Ms. Josephta Mukobe, Principal Secretary, State Department of Special Programmes; Mr. Joe Okudo, Principal Secretary, State Department of Culture and the Arts; H.E. Prof. George Godia, Kenya’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to UNESCO; H.E. Salma Ahmed, Kenya’s Ambassador to France; Dr. Rashid Aman, Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM) Board; Dr. Evangeline Njoka, Secretary General of KNATCOM; Dr. Mzalendo Kibunja, Director-General of National Museums of Kenya; Dr. James Njogu, Kenya Representative to the Executive Board; Dr. Wanjiru Kariuki, Chairperson of Board of Management of the Centre for Mathematics, Science & Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA); Governor Moses Akaranga; Governor Salim Mvurya Mgala; Members of Parliament; chief executives of government entities and other senior government officials and participants from Kenya.
Senior representatives from UNESCO included Mr Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Edouard Firmin Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Africa Department and Mr. Michel Toto, Chief of Protocol of UNESCO.
Also present were dignitaries including Ambassadors, Representatives from Permanent Delegations to UNESCO and Embassies, UNESCO Staff, chief executives from various entities, the business community, Kenyans living in France and the general public.
In his speech, His Excellency Hon. William Ruto appreciated the cordial relationship and collaboration between Kenya and UNESCO and highlighted some notable activities witnessed in the recent past which included the nomination of His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, Third President of Kenya, as UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Water in Africa in April 2016, the signing of a Framework Agreement on cooperation in the implementation of the Digital Literacy Programme between the Kenya and UNESCO in the presence of His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and the participation by the Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) Summit, the first TICAD Summit to be held in Africa.
The Deputy President underscored the role of culture as an enabler and driver of sustainability and important factor for social inclusion. In that regard, he made reference to the Constitution of Kenya which recognizes culture as the foundation of the nation adding that Cultural Diplomacy was one of the core pillars of Kenya’s Foreign policy. He welcomed UNESCO’s recognition of culture as a vector of sustainable development.
The Deputy President noted that Kenya had worked with UNESCO in promoting heritage for posterity and had six properties of Outstanding Universal Value inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage. He urged UNESCO to support Kenya in the inscription of more sites. With regard to the UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Deputy President pointed out that Kenya had translated the Convention into Kiswahili thereby raising awareness and ownership on the Convention.
The Deputy President reiterated the need to preserve the environment for posterity and urged the global community to embrace environmental preservation to secure the planet earth for generations to come, noting that the Kenya Government had established sound environment presentation and conservation policies which were being implemented.
The Deputy President appreciated UNESCO’s efforts in promoting a culture of peace particularly with regard to raising awareness on preventing violent extremism through education. He reiterated the need to appreciate culture for better mutual understanding and long-term peaceful coexistence. While appreciating that Africa was a Global Priority for UNESCO, the Deputy President urged UNESCO to capitalize on the enormous potential of the youth to promote tolerance, mutual understanding and dialogue.
In her remarks, the Director-General, Mrs. Irina Bokova, spoke of the long-standing cooperation between Kenya and UNESCO which had been marked with the strengthening of quality education, mobilizing science, addressing emerging social challenges, fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and building inclusive knowledge societies. She drew attention to the importance of culture as an unparalleled force of belonging, identity and mutual understanding, a message that would be conveyed through that the Kenya Week.
The Director-General mentioned that culture was a key aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which for the first time recognized cultural heritage and diversity as enablers of inclusive and sustainable development. She appreciated Kenya’s efforts in promotion of a National Cultural Policy on World Heritage and Sustainable Development, including for the sustainable preservation of the six natural and cultural properties inscribed on the World Heritage List and the two items inscribed on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The Director-General applauded Kenya’s efforts in strengthening sustainability through deepening innovation across communities as demonstrated in the signing of the Framework Agreement between Kenya and UNESCO on Digital Literacy and the pilot free primary schools’ laptop project launched by Kenya with the aim of providing public primary schools with laptops and electronic devices. She stated that UNESCO was promoting the use of ICTs through the SIDA-funded project for empowering local radios, thus facilitating active participation of communities in public debates. She called for greater investment in people’s capacities and skills which was vital for the success of the 2030 Agenda across Africa and across the world.
Courtesy visit to the Director-General on 10th October 2016
The Official launch of the 3rd edition of the Kenya Week was preceded by a courtesy visit by the Deputy President, His Excellency Hon. William Ruto to the Director-General, Mrs. Irina Bokova where they discussed ways of strengthening cooperation between Kenya and UNESCO under the five sectors of Education, Culture, Natural Sciences, Social Human Sciences, and Communication and Information.
An official reception on the evening of 10th October, 2016
The reception was hosted by the chief guest, His Excellency Hon. William Ruto. Over 300 guests who included key personalities from government, UNESCO, permanent delegations, embassies, businesses and the Kenyan diaspora attended. Guests were treated to Kenyan cuisine, traditional music and dance courtesy of Bomas of Kenya and Marsabit dance group.
Five day exhibition
The exhibition was held from 10th to 14th October 2016 at Salle des Pas Perdus, UNESCO. The exhibition had exhibitors drawn from various government institutions, state agencies, counties, companies, organizations, individuals and the Kenyan diaspora in France. The exhibition featured artwork, paintings, photographs, mosaic, Kenyan artefacts, traditional costumes, accessories, footwear, beaded work, publications, pictorials, brochures and give-aways such as Kenyan tea, coffee and juices. Unique sculptures made from Kisii soapstone and Kisii granite by Mr. Elkana Ong’esa, the key note artist, were showcased at the exhibition. A photographic exhibition entitled “Kenya: Land of Culture and diversity” by Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) foundation was also exhibited during the Kenya Week courtesy of the UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi.
Visit to the offices of the Permanent Delegation of Kenya to UNESCO
The Permanent Delegation of Kenya to UNESCO was privileged to welcome the Deputy President, His Excellency Hon. William Ruto at its offices 10th October 2016. The Deputy President also visited the square at the entrance of UNESCO Miollis building where the famous Enyamuchera (bird of peace) sculpture is placed. The bird was sculptured by Mr. Elkana Ong’esa, the key note artist for Kenya Week and donated to UNESCO by the Government of Kenya in 1978. Enyamuchera, which is made from Kisii soapstone has been in the collection of UNESCO since 1980. The bird is associated with good luck and is also a symbol of good music and peace.
Happy hours were held on the evenings of 11th to 14th October 2016 at UNESCO. They consisted of lively Kenyan music and dance performances by dancers from Bomas of Kenya and Marsabit dance group. Fashion shows were also held featuring models from Marsabit county and Miss East Africa France 2016.
The 3rd edition of the 2016 Kenya Week at UNESCO came to a successful close on the evening of 14th October 2016. On behalf of the Permanent Delegation of Kenya to UNESCO as the co-host, Prof. George Godia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to UNESCO recognized in a special way the tremendous support received from the Government of Kenya through the various government ministries, institutions and agencies.
H.E. Prof. George Godia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to UNESCO expressed appreciation to the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency William Ruto for inaugurating the Kenya Week as the chief guest. He thanked the Director-General, Mrs. Irina Bokova for UNESCO’s support during the Kenya Week and thanked all the participants for their support, involvement and making the event a great success.
Prof. Colette Suda, Principal Secretary, State Department of Higher Education observed that the Kenya Week had brought together participants and viewers from different cultural backgrounds to celebrate Kenya’s diverse culture which was one way of building peace and solidarity amongst humanity as envisaged in UNESCO’s mission.
REPORT BY THE PERMANENT DELEGATION OF KENYA TO UNESCO