The Director-General visits the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

From 23 to 26 July 2006, Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, paid his first official visit to the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the Russian Federation. Throughout his visit, the Director-General was accompanied by Mr Akimov, Vice President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and Mr Yakovenko, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

President Shtyrov had extended an invitation to the Director-General to visit the Republic on the occasion of the Days of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) organized at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in May 2005. In Yakutsk, Mr Matsuura and the President continued their discussions on the existing cooperation between the Republic and UNESCO, and signed a Joint Communiqué that outlines the main areas for future collaboration, including the development of nomadic schools, and the revival of the Yakut Heroic Epos Olonkho, which was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005.

On 24 July, the Director-General opened with President Shtyrov the Scientific Forum on the Sustainable Development of the Arctic Countries and the Northern Regions of the Russian Federation in the Context of Education, Science and Culture. The Forum brought together representatives of 14 countries and more than 20 northern regions of Russia. In his opening address at the Forum, Mr Matsuura underlined the importance of international cooperation on issues of sustainable development – such as environmental threats and the preservation of cultural diversity – which transcend national boundaries. “Sustainable development is not just a question of science and technology’, Mr Matsuura noted. “It is also an ethical and moral challenge. It is about making sure that the desire for progress and wellbeing is balanced by a respect for cultural traditions and natural resources. It is about fostering the knowledge, skills, values, behaviours and lifestyles needed for a sustainable future.”

Referring to the intimate relationship between cultural and biological diversity, the Director-General argued that this “creative interdependence is nowhere more apparent than in the Arctic region. The indigenous peoples of this area have developed some of the most viable forms of civilization, adapted to extreme climatic conditions, and helping to preserve the natural ecology. Indeed, by working in harmony with nature, these indigenous traditions and lifestyles can be presented as a model of sustainable development.”

“Globalization”, the Director-General argued, “must be seen not only as a threat, but also as an opportunity for indigenous cultures. Our task is to facilitate dialogue between traditional and modern cultures so that they become mutually enhancing. In order to meet the global challenge of sustainable development we need to draw on the accumulated wisdom of humanity, mobilizing all forms of knowledge and seeking inspiration from the world’s cultural diversity.”

During his stay in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Director-General attended: “Kyys Debeliie”, a performance of Olonkho; the first stone laying ceremony of the International Olonkho Centre; and the Festival entitled “Living Traditions of Olonkho”, which was attended by some 1000 participants in the Lena Museum-Reserve Sottintsy village.

In recognition of his contribution to the development of education and science, and to the safeguarding and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage of the peoples of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the President presented the Director-General with the highest Order of the Republic, “the Polar Star”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash info n°123-2006
  • 26-07-2006
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