At UNESCO, Hamid Karzai maps progress achieved and work aheadParis - During his official visit to France, the Chairman of Afghanistan’s Interim Authority, Hamid Karzai, will address an information session of UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board and meet Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura on Friday.
The urgent need to rebuild the administration of the State of Afghanistan alongside the primordial importance of education and culture were highlighted by both UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura and the Chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai before the Organization's 58-Member Executive Board at Headquarters today.
A thread running through both addresses as well as remarks of Member States was the convergence between the priorities of the Interim Administration and the very core of UNESCO's mandate.
Speaking about the enormous task of rebuilding Afghanistan, Mr Matsuura welcomed Mr Karzai's commitment to give top priority to education praising "such farsightedness in a leader, particularly considering the desperate conditions facing you at every turn."
Mr Matsuura highlighted the urgent need to design "a new educational system covering all types and levels of education. […] This process is a complex one. In the light of UNESCO's 50 years' experience, we are convinced that educational change is not just a matter of solving technical problems."
"But the most important thing is that Afghanistan's education system, constituted on the basis of shared values and respect for diversity, becomes the key instrument in shaping the society you envision," he said. "Failing this, all efforts at reconciliation and nation-building will come to nought. This is precisely where UNESCO can make its distinctive contribution."
Mr Karzai for his part explained his country's great need in this area: "Two hundred thousand people, including many of the most educated, left Afghanistan 20 years ago during the Soviet invasion. Many of them are still abroad. Another thing we suffered from is the fact that during these years young people could not go to school. So we have lost one generation that went away, or is now too old to contribute much, and another that have not be trained."
The Chairman of the Interim Authority went on to express the "hope that UNESCO will provide Afghanistan with whatever it can to educate our people, given its leadership role in the UN system in the field of education."
The important role of culture in the rebirth of Afghanistan was emphasized by Mr Matsuura. Speaking about Mr Karzai's commitment to the speedy rehabilitation of the National Museum in Kabul, Mr Matsuura said: "I admire your insight that reassembling
UNESCOPRESS/No.2001-12 - 2
the scattered stones of Afghan cultural identity is as important for restoring internal peace and national self-confidence as rebuilding the homes, schools and factories of your ruined country."
Mr Karzai spoke of the recent re-opening of the Kabul Art Gallery and of the School of Music, and of the future re-opening of the national archives and of KabulMuseum, on which UNESCO is also working. He looked forward to the day when some of the artefacts currently exhibited at the Musée Guimet in Paris will be returned to Afghanistan.
Mr Matsuura said to Mr Karzai: "I pledge UNESCO's assistance, as you requested of me in Kabul, in co-ordinating efforts to safeguard Afghanistan's cultural heritage and to ensure the safe return of stolen artefacts and treasures as soon as suitable conditions permit."
Mr Karzai also spoke of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, describing it as "the most horrible devastation of the war" and said: "We cannot reconcile ourselves with it, it is like the loss of a limb […] We don't know what to do with this, but we must learn to keep it as a reminder to mankind not to destroy things."
After considering the issues of education, culture and heritage preservation, both Mr Matsuura and Mr Karzai highlighted the importance of press freedom for Afghanistan's emergent democracy. Mr Matsuura stated that "the importance of strongpublic service broadcasting along with pluralistic and independent media cannot be over-emphasized in the building of democracy." Mr Karzai spoke of a recent decree liberalizing the media and said that non-governmental media were already operating in thecountry.
Finally, Mr Karzai thanked UNESCO for its contribution to date and for its strong commitment to Afghanistan's reconstruction. Mr Matsuura gave his assurance that "UNESCO in its entirety is with you and will remain with you."