|France, Lebanon hail CEDRE cooperation|
|Program builds academic, research capacity in higher education
A program that has been working for 10 years to improve Lebanon's higher education institutions was honored Wednesday in Beirut in the presence of prominent international academics and politicians. A ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of the CEDRE program was held at the Grand Serail in Beirut.
The CEDRE program (Cooperation for the Evaluation and the Development of Research) aims to support the development of research through scientific exchanges on projects between institutions of higher education and research in France and Lebanon.
Several prominent figures gave speeches in honor of the CEDRE program including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Education Minister Khaled Qabbani, president of the CEDRE program Jacques Valade and France's National Education and Research Minister Gilles de Robien.
"After the crisis we were faced with following the assassination of [former Premier] Rafik Hariri, France gave us support and cooperation for our independence, stability and freedom," said Siniora.
He added: "The CEDRE program has benefited Lebanon's academic and scientific institutions, as it offered over 400 scientific and research projects and financed 128 projects."
"This is a high-ranking program of excellence with the support of the Lebanese government," said de Robien. He claimed the CEDRE program was of top priority as 40,000 Lebanese students are studying in the French system.
He added: "France is sending a resolute message to Lebanon to support French and Lebanese researchers working together on scientific projects. I also hope to witness an increase in francophone teaching in Lebanon."
The CEDRE program was inaugurated on April 5, 1996, during French President Jacques Chirac's first visit to the country, with a partnership agreement between the French and Lebanese governments.
The goal was to combine forces with their scientific research groups in order to support a bilateral scientific cooperation open to all university students and scientists in both countries. The cooperation was financed by France and Lebanon equally, to the amount of 4 million euros over the last 10 years.
The program draws particular attention to projects working in four different fields: social science and the contemporary world, environment and geosciences, health and medicine and engineering.
Having financed 128 projects, the CEDRE program has helped scientific groups in Lebanon emerge alongside their French counterparts. As a result France has become Lebanon's top scientific partner in terms of research and co-publication projects. This favorable situation has led the French and Lebanese authorities to plan further developments. A CEDRE II program is in the pipeline.
Prior to the ceremony, Qabbani was awarded the ensign of commander in the Order of Academic Palms by his counterpart, de Robien. Qabbani said: "I would like to thank the French government for this honor, source of pride and trust. Long live France and long live Lebanon."
The presence of de Robien constitutes the first official ministerial visit to Lebanon since 2003 and shows the interest of the French government in the program which represents one of the foremost achievements of bilateral cooperation with Lebanon.
Beirut,06 06 2006
The Daily Star