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UNESCO Executive Officer Mr. Banda visits SIL International

(February 2009) UNESCO Executive Officer Mr. Julius Banda visited SIL Headquarters offices in Dallas, Texas, as well as the SIL Washington, D.C. Office of International Relations. Mr. Banda has worked for UNESCO in Paris for 14 years. For the last 10 years, he has worked in the Director-General's office as an Executive Officer, with a focus on UNESCO in Africa.

UNESCO Executive Officer Mr. Julius Banda (left) is presented a copy of the Ethnologue by SIL Executive Director Freddy Boswell. UNESCO Executive Officer
Mr. Julius Banda (left) is presented a copy of the Ethnologue by SIL Executive Director Freddy Boswell.

The purpose of the meetings with SIL Executive Director Freddy Boswell and International Relations Director Paul Frank was to learn from Mr. Banda how SIL can better engage with UNESCO. Also on the agenda was discussing areas of greatest potential for SIL-UNESCO engagement. Mr. Banda first became acquainted with SIL through SIL's liaison to UNESCO in Paris.

Mr. Banda noted that SIL's efforts have brought about the development of alphabets in many languages, which, in turn, has made literacy and mother tongue education possible.

Reporting on his meeting with Mr. Boswell, Mr. Banda said, "The most important topic that we talked about was how SIL and UNESCO can cooperate in the area of languages, especially in the context of the new UNESCO convention on intangible cultural heritage." We should continue advocacy so that "member states—the governments around the world—should put equal focus on language as well as the other oral traditions…We need to fill that gap so that countries are focusing on language preservation."

Mr. Banda commented on the synergy between SIL with other agencies: "In the area of education…the partnership has promoted… [a] consensus that it is important to use mother tongue education in primary education because the kids learn faster and in that way you are also promoting and preserving the languages."

When Mr. Banda was asked what he felt was one of the most energizing aspects of his role he said, "The simple fact that we can bring capacity building in countries and help them to be better than when we started and to help them especially to be literate and to have control of their own lives—that is important."

During his meetings at SIL's Washington, D.C. office, Mr. Banda highlighted the significance of SIL's consultative status with UNESCO and encouraged SIL to take full advantage of that status. He also spoke of the implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This convention covers oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, etc. He feels that SIL should help in this effort and propose instances of intangible cultural heritage from the communities SIL works with to be added to UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as well as UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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