On 5 May, Mr Matsuura had a long and wide-ranging discussion with President Emomali Rahmon on progress in bilateral cooperation. Both agreed that relations between UNESCO and Tajikistan had rapidly expanded since the Director-General’s first trip to the country in November 2002. The latter had been the first ever visit of a UNESCO Director-General to Tajikistan and had led to the launch of a number of important collaborative initiatives, in particular in the fields of culture, education and science. “I am pleased to see that all the commitments we made during our historic meeting in 2002 have been achieved”, Mr Matsuura told the President during the meeting.
The Director-General referred to significant progress in the field of culture. He made special mention of the Japanese-funded project to restore the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, which came to a successful conclusion in December 2008. Mr Matsuura said that the next step would be to prepare a credible conservation plan for the site, which once completed would make Ajina Tepa a very strong candidate for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. He added that Tajikistan had two other good candidatures for future inscription in the form of the Neolithic Settlement of Sarazm and the Tajik National Park.
The Director-General also commended Tajikistan on the proclamation of Shashmaqom as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. Shashmaqom, a classical Central Asian musical tradition, was jointly submitted with Uzbekistan. Mr Matsuura encouraged Tajikistan to ratify the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, arguing that it would help the country to safeguard and promote its rich living cultural traditions.
Turning to education, the Director-General underscored UNESCO’s readiness to support the Tajik government in implementing the country’s national education strategy for 2006-2015. He highlighted that the development of a new UNESCO National Education Support Strategy (UNESS) for Tajikistan would help the Organization and other international partners better align their assistance with the country’s priorities.
Finally, with respect to the sciences, Mr Matsuura paid special tribute to the President’s international leadership in the field of freshwater, noting that ensuring the sustainable management of world water resources was a top priority for UNESCO. In particular, the Director-General thanked President Rahmon for his participation at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul in mid-March, when Mr Matsuura launched on behalf of the UN system the 3rd edition of the World Water Development Report (see Flash Info N° 041-2009*).
In discussing the global water challenge, President Rahmon drew special attention to the need for increased action to prevent water-related disasters. In this regard, the Director-General said that the Organization would collaborate closely with Tajikistan in mitigating the risks and maximizing the development potential of Lake Sarez, mentioning that UNESCO would be organizing an international expert meeting on the issue in Tajikistan in early September 2009. Mr Matsuura also pledged UNESCO’s full support to the mid-term review meeting for the UN Decade “Water for Life”, which Tajikistan has offered to host in 2010.
The President, for his part, expressed his deep satisfaction at what he described as the “progressive” and “dynamic” cooperation between Tajikistan and UNESCO. He said he deeply appreciated the Director-General’s personal efforts to strengthen bilateral relations and the technical support UNESCO’s Office in Almaty was providing to the country in a number of key areas. The President announced that at the end of 2009 he would open a Tajik Embassy in Paris, which would also cover UNESCO, stating that this would further bolster collaboration between Tajikistan and the Organization. “Thanks to your leadership, Mr President, we have made enormous progress in recent years. This must continue”, the Director-General responded.
The Director-General also reviewed bilateral collaboration in depth with the Tajik Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Hamrokhon Zarifi. The focus was on how to build on the excellent framework for collaboration established since Mr Matsuura’s first trip in 2002. Both expressed the hope that the present visit would further reinforce UNESCO-Tajik relations. The protection of biodiversity was mentioned as one new avenue for cooperation, following the creation of the Tajik National Committee for the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme. Special emphasis was also given to the importance of UNESCO technical assistance and capacity-development, not only in science, culture and education, but also in media and communication, notably under the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), of whose Intergovernmental Council Tajikistan is now a member.
During his tour of the historic city of Kulyab on 5 May, Mr Matsuura visited the Ali Khamadoni mausoleum as well as the neighbouring archaeological site of Khulbuk. He discussed efforts to preserve and promote these important sites with local authorities and experts, including the Major of Kulyab, Mr Abdulloev Khamid. In 2006, UNESCO was associated with the celebration of the 2,700th anniversary of Kulyab, which had stood as a major hub along one of the Central Asian silk routes.
While in Dushanbe, the Director-General also met with senior representatives of UN agencies based in Tajikistan to discuss system-wide activities in the country and future programme priorities.
Throughout his visit Mr Matsuura was accompanied by the Chairman of the Tajik National Commission to UNESCO, Mr Karamatullo Olimov, and the Commission’s Secretary-General, Ms Ganieva Sadbarg.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 079-2009 - Publication Date: 11-05-2009