The Director-General visits Ukraine on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster

From 24 to 26 April 2006, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, at the invitation of President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, paid an official visit to Ukraine and attended the events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

On his arrival in Kiev, the Director-General participated with the President in the inauguration of the International Conference “Twenty Years After the Chernobyl Accident: Future Outlook”, where he reiterated UNESCO’s readiness to continue taking part in the UN-led efforts to help reduce the impact of this catastrophe. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, UNESCO had contributed to the establishment of psychological and social rehabilitation centres in affected areas.

On 25 April, the Director-General attended with Mrs Yushchenko, First Lady of Ukraine and President of the Ukraine 3000 International Charitable Foundation, in the humanitarian forum entitled “Rebirth, renewal and human development”. In his opening speech, Mr Matsuura highlighted the importance of preventive action and preparedness. “One of the key lessons of the Chernobyl case is that we cannot and must not wait until the next human catastrophe occurs before we act. […] Our actions should be guided by clear and sensible orientations; in particular, to know in order to prevent, and to prevent rather than cure. These orientations clearly call on us to focus on a long-term development approach more than on emergency humanitarian assistance after the event. The latter is crucial, of course, where it is needed, but preparedness and prevention are more “humanitarian” in their effects.”

During his bilateral talks with President Yushchenko, Foreign Minister Tarasyk and representatives of Ukraine intelligentsia, the Director-General reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to assist the country in the achievement of sustainable development in UNESCO’s fields of competence. The joint Communiqué that the President and the Director-General signed at the closure of their meeting outlines the road map for future Ukraine/UNESCO cooperation. In recognition of his personal contribution to the protection of world cultural heritage and development of intellectual cooperation between Ukraine and UNESCO, the Director-General was awarded by the President the Order of Prince Yarolsav the Wise.

Before his departure from Kiev on 26 April, the Director-General opened with the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Minister of Education the International Experts’ Meeting “Human Rights within the Competence of UNESCO: The Right to Education in the Countries of Transition”. Bringing together experts from Ukraine, Belarus, Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation, the meeting was organized by UNESCO, the Ukrainian National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, Peace, Tolerance and International Understanding at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Mr Matsuura referred to the speech that President Yushchenko had delivered at the ceremony celebrating UNESCO’s 60th anniversary in Paris on 16 November 2005, in which the President had reaffirmed the commitment of the new Ukraine to UNESCO’s values and ideals and defined tolerance, a key element of the Orange Revolution, as the cornerstone of peace and stability. “President Yushchenko gave particular emphasis to the importance of respect for human dignity and human rights. He underlined the desire of people to live in a free democratic society. We exchanged views on how UNESCO can assist the national efforts to consolidate democracy and to ensure respect for human rights. It is in this framework that I supported the initiative to organize this international experts’ meeting”, said Mr Matsuura.

The Director-General’s programme also included a visit to St. Sophia Cathedral inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1990.

  • Source:Flash Info n° 063-2006
  • 28-04-2006
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