LAU institute celebrates foundation of Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO
CLH’s last activity of 2008 was a conference commemorating the 60th anniversary of the commission’s foundation.
First session leader and speakers sitting in the front row. From left: Dr. Henri Awit, current commission president; session leader Dr. Elise Salem, LAU VVPSDEM; Dr. George Tohme, former commission president; and Dr. Hisham Nashabeh, former commission secretary-general.
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LAU’s Center for Lebanese Heritage ended its monthly activities in 2008 with a three-session conference on December 1 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO.
CLH Director Henri Zoghaib opened the conference by briefly reviewing UNESCO’s establishment in 1945. He said Lebanon was the third country after France and Mexico to hold a UNESCO General Conference session in 1948. On that occasion, the Lebanese government built the UNESCO Palace, which still stands today.
“For 60 years, the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO has continued to deliver to the Lebanese civil society, generation after generation, cultural, scientific and educational projects and activities,” said Dr. Joseph Jabbra, LAU president.
Salwa Saniora Baassiri, secretary-general, spoke about the commission’s history since its establishment on June 28, 1948 after Lebanese President Bechara El Khoury signed its decree, making it one of the first such committees created in the world.
“The National Commission built its assorted experiences through a group of thinkers, intellectuals and administrators, and withstood in spite of many obstacles. It celebrates today its 60th anniversary, aware of its strengths and looking for a promising tomorrow,” said Saniora Baassiri.
The first session of the conference dealt with the commission’s flags, landmarks and signs. “Perhaps the most beautiful [aspect] in the commission is that, like UNESCO, it transcends communities, groups, and real and artificial boundaries… Our committee is truly national in its formation,” said Dr. Henri Awit, who shared his experience as the current commission president and a former member.
Two high-level former commission officials, Dr. George Tohme, president (1998-2000), and Dr. Hisham Nashabeh, secretary-general (1989-1998), also spoke during the first session.
The second session tackled the commission’s relationship with the Lebanese youth. Christiane Jeitani, who coordinates the networks of UNESCO clubs and UNESCO-affiliated schools, said their aim is to “strengthen collective action, [and] education for citizenship, democracy and human rights.”
Beirut Dean of Students Tarek Na’was, who was leading the session, talked about the LAU UNESCO Club and its positive impact on students. The club was formed in 2002 along with those of AUB and Saint Joseph University.
The last topic was the commission’s relationship with the Lebanese civil society. Ramza Jaber Saad, assistant to the commission’s secretary-general and responsible for information and communication, explained about the first virtual library in Lebanon initiated by the commission. “[It is] a free space on the Internet involving a group of school and public libraries to benefit reciprocally from its collections and the possibility of distance lending,” she said.
Next, Dr. Ibrahim Kawkabani, member of the Lebanon Memory of the World National Committee, and Dr. Antoine Messarra, advisory council member of the Anna Lindh Foundation, discussed the entities they are part of respectively.
On the occasion of Beirut having been named “World Book Capital 2009,” CLH’s series of events from January till June will be dedicated to Lebanese writer Amin Al Rihani. The first lecture took place on January 5 and focused on Al Rihani’s Lebanese identity, Arabism and thoughts that provide insights into contemporary developments in the Arab world.