Director-General pledges UNESCO's support to President Sirisena's reconciliation goals
Director-General Irina Bokova pledged UNESCO’s full support to accompany Sri Lanka in its journey towards reconciliation and development during a meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo on 17 August 2016.
Stating that economic development and reconciliation among the main communities of the country are the priorities of Sri Lanka’s new unity government, President Sirisena expressed appreciation for UNESCO’s longstanding cooperation, including for education and the safeguarding of cultural heritage, in particular in the cultural triangle.
He outlined measures taken by his Government to improve human rights, citing the establishment of a cabinet ministry for national dialogue and reconciliation and the strengthening of the media’s independence, describing the passing of the Right to Information Act as “a great victory for the people of our country.” He related Sri Lanka's high educational achievements and stated the commitment to improve education quality.
The Director General affirmed that she was “impressed by the strong political will to move forward and go through the reconciliation process,” noting that wide-ranging programme of her first official visit to Sri Lanka had provided insight into untapped opportunities for reinforced cooperation.
She commended the President for the process underway to draft a new constitution and establish important legal frameworks, including for the right to information, noting that media freedom and pluralism is the foundation for a sustainable, healthy and democratic society.
She conveyed UNESCO’s determination to support reconciliation, through education for peace and human rights and youth engagement to promote social cohesion. Referring to her visits to World Heritage Sites in Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy, she affirmed that cultural heritage is a force for dialogue, reconciliation and economic growth, stressing the importance of raising awareness among youth of its value.
Referring to her participation in a Science Dialogue during her visit, she expressed support for the establishment of a National Science Centre, highlighted the importance of building better links between science and policy, strengthening national capacities in marine science, in STI and the sustainable management of natural resources and measures to increase resilience in the face of climate change. In the area of education, she drew attention to her visit to the South Asian Centre for Teacher Development under the auspices of UNESCO, which will contribute to addressing quality gaps across the region.
In the face of intolerance, terrorism and violent extremism that is on the rise around the world, she said that Sri Lanka has a powerful story to tell on healing from a conflict that tore a society apart, through a comprehensive reconciliation process.
She added that this strong sense of political will and ownership provide the basis for strong partnership with the United Nations for the implementation of 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Ms Bokova expressed appreciation for Sri Lanka's contribution as a member of UNESCO's Executive Board, noting the engagement of the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate Mr Tilak Ranaviraja and of the National Commission for UNESCO.
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