On visit to Republic of Congo, UNESCO chief praises role of music at pan-African festival

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova with the President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo. Photo: UNESCO

15 July 2013 – The head of the United Nations educational and cultural agency, in an official visit to Republic of Congo, has praised the power of music to cut across cultural and regional differences, and to develop societies.

At the opening ceremony of the 9th Pan African Music Festival (FEESPAM) in Republic of Congo's historical Félix Éboué stadium in the capital Brazzaville, Irina Bokova, the Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that “we must help those who give life to music to live from their music.”

Addressing the audience at the music festival, which this year showcases more than 30 musicians from a dozen countries, Ms. Bokova added that music has the dual potential for dialogue among cultures and regional integration, and for economic and social development.

Earlier during her visit, Ms. Bokova met with President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who had stressed his determination to implement the African Union's decision to make promotion of music “a vector of African identity and a factor in the continent's economic growth.”

Ms. Bokova and Mr. Nguesso also discussed the need for the UN agency to help “prepare minds to be open to the right ideas” concerned respect for the environment and protection of biodiversity.

While in Republic of Congo, Ms. Bokova also launched a project to support training for 3,000 primary and secondary school teachers.

“One does not become a teacher overnight … it is a profession, and I would go further to say that it is a profession requiring the utmost precision, as it affects the most subtle material that exists: the human mind,” Ms. Bokova said in an address to the ministers responsible for education.

The UNESCO Director General also urged the strengthening of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, which aims to improve access to and safeguard original documents related to slavery and the slave trade, as well as the pedagogical use of the 'General History of Africa'.

Earlier this month, Ms. Bokova nominated jazz musician, composer, producer and radio host, Marcus Miller, as a UNESCO Artist for Peace. In his new role, Mr. Miller will support and promote the Slave Route Project, raising awareness about a phenomenon that has had a profound impact on the modern world, from religion and culture to the human rights movement, according to the UN agency's website.

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