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Students from Lebanon, Syria grab top honours at UNESCO-backed school contest

Students from Lebanon, Syria grab top honours at UNESCO-backed school contest

A team of students from Lebanon and Syria has taken first place in the largest global contest for students, backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which seeks to foster dialogue between children from different cultural backgrounds.

The Lebanon-Syria team beat out over 36,000 students from 140 countries in the 2007-2008 Mondialogo School Contest, which wrapped up last week in Beijing.

Nearly 3,000 bi-national teams worked together on joint projects, such as photo essays, collages, music, plays, sculpture and web pages, and the top 25 teams converged in the Chinese capital to discuss the importance of cultural exchange and present their joint projects to the contest jury.

“I am heartened by the quality of the competing projects and the increasing success of the Mondialogo initiative, which is promoting cultural diversity by providing a platform for young students around the world to engage in a meaningful intercultural learning experience,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said. “The School Contest is putting to practice the ideals on which UNESCO is based.”

The Indonesia-Ukraine team came in second, with Germany-Mexico and Syria-United States sharing third prize, at the awards ceremony on 28 September.

The global contest – started by UNESCO and the company Daimler in 2003 – hopes that through intercultural projects, students can foster understanding, solidarity, tolerance and respect for people of different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds.

The Mondialogo initiative, which counts Brazilian author Paulo Coelho and Swedish writer Henning Mankell among its Ambassadors, also includes the Engineering Award, the world's first prizes aimed specifically at young engineers from developed and developing countries.