Irina Bokova visits Pakistan and makes a call for increased assistance
The first place UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova went during her brief mission to Pakistan on 31 August 2010 was Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, one of the most severely flood-affected regions. She was accompanied by Mr Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali, Pakistan’s Minister of Education, and Ms Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister and Pakistan’s representative to UNESCO’s Executive Board.
The Director-General met with flood refugees in Kandar camp, near Nowshera and was briefed by the National District Coordination Officers. “We are moving to rapidly put in place the foundations for recovery – in the short, medium and long term,” said Irina Bokova following this visit.
During her mission, the Director-General met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, in the presence of the ministers of education and culture as well as other national authorities, to discuss UNESCO assistance. They agreed that UNESCO should extend assistance to Pakistan in the post-disaster phase by undertaking small and medium level projects in education, water management and preservation of world heritage sites. The Prime Minister appreciated the initiative taken by the Director-General to send, in the previous week, a multidisciplinary team of six most senior science experts from UNESCO and associated centres of excellence who met at length in Islamabad with the leading scientific figures and heads of national institutions. As a result of this mission an integrated nationally owned scientific plan has been developed for short and long term enhancement of the country’s capacity to manage floods and related geo-hazards.
The assistance in the field of education was at the heart of the discussions and the Prime Minister has called for UNESCO’s increased role in establishing non-formal education centres in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan.
The Director-General assured the Prime Minister that UNESCO’s World Heritage experts stand ready to assist Pakistani authorities. Irina Bokova underscored the importance of protecting heritage and recalled that if the ancient site of Moenjodaro seems to be in safety today, it is the direct result of a large-scale international campaign – one of the longest in UNESCO’s history – that was completed in 1997. The Director-General noted that UNESCO is particularly concerned with the historic monuments in Taxila and Makli, Thatta.
Irina Bokova also held significant exchanges with the representatives of the UN Country Team in Pakistan and participated in a joint press conference with the Executive Directors of UNICEF, Mr Anthony Lake, and World Food Programme, Ms Josette Sheeran, as well as the UN Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, Mr Jean Maurice Ripert. “I am here together with my UN colleagues,” said Irina Bokova “to express UNESCO’s friendship and solidarity to Pakistan. We are present to help rebuild the education system, to protect the country’s rich cultural heritage, and to share with the Pakistani people our scientific expertise to manage and avert such risks in the future”.
Winding up a full account of UNESCO’s response to help Pakistan recover from the crisis, the Director-General concluded: “We are working with all our UN Partners to assist Pakistan in assessing its needs. This is a whole human, social and cultural fabric that has been affected and calls for our attention. Our most urgent responsibility is to give hope in the future to the millions of children, women and men who have been affected by the floods – this is the only assurance of a peaceful recovery that we are all determined to build.”