23 November 2011, Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo. UNITAR’s delegation composed of the Board members and staff who, just on the eve, successfully concluded the work of the 51st session of their Board held in Brazzaville has had the honour of being received today by the President of the Republic of the Congo, Mr. Denis Sassou Nguesso. H.E. Mr. Henri Lopes, current Chair of UNITAR’s Board and Ambassador of Congo in Paris, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, former Senior Advisor of UN Secretary-General, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prof. Nicolas Michel, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Ms. Anne Kristin Sydnes, former Minister of International Development Cooperation of Norway, Prof. Alfredo Valladao from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), H.E. Mr. Valette, French Ambassador in Brazzaville, as well as UNITAR’s Executive Director Mr. Carlos Lopes were among some prominent guests who took part in this meeting with the President.

During the meeting, H.E. Mr. Nguesso, Board members and UNITAR Executive Director had an opportunity to discuss a number of global challenges, in particular, in relation to their impact on developing countries, as well as the policies that need to be put in place to address these issues. The cooperation of developing countries and training for youth with a view to preparing this significant segment of African population to the requirements of sustainable development centered societies were underscored as important features of the global response to these challenges.

More specifically, the Institute’s training programmes in the area of environment, climate change, and its work in the preparation of the Rio+20 and related thematic areas such as sustainable development and transition to a greener economy represented one of the main focuses of the discussion. UNITAR's Executive Director, Mr. Lopes, used, among other, the example of UNITAR’s work on building capacities of presiding officers and national delegations in climate change negotiations to illustrate the dynamism of the Institute’s training activities and the recognition that UN agencies and national governments give to UNITAR’s work.

His Excellency Mr. Nguesso has shared with the UNITAR delegation the news of his designation as the coordinator of Africa’s preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development next year (Rio+20). It was pointed out that UNITAR could play an important role in providing support to these preparations given the expertise the Institute has accumulated in the area of environment-related negotiations training.

A number of public side-events were organized on the occasion of the 51st session of UNITAR’s Board meeting as part of creating needed space for a productive dialogue between foreign and Congolese experts and the audience. The Round Table on “South-South Cooperation and Regional Integration in Africa” co-organized by the Congolese Ministry of Scientific Research and UNITAR on 22 November prompted a lot of interest among local audiences and media outlets. In addition, UNITAR Executive Director was invited to deliver a public lecture on the topic of “African challenges in the immediate future” for the students of the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the Université Marien Ngouabi; and Mr. Carlos Lopes, Ambassador Henri Lopes and Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi were  special guests of a televised debate prepared by a Congolese TV programme on the topic of UNITAR’s actual and potential contribution to the Congolese capacity development activities.