“Education, skills and promotion of heritage are lasting foundations for a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan” says Irina Bokova
On 5 October, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, participated in the opening of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, in the presence of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the President of the European Council, Mr Donald Tusk, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders.
“The history of Afghanistan reminds us ‘hard power’ is never enough – you need the ‘soft power’ of education, culture and information also, to recover, to heal and rebuild, to foster a more inclusive and resilient society,” declared the Director-General in her opening statement, calling for sustained investment in education, literacy, skills and in the protection of cultural heritage as a force for dialogue and social cohesion.
The Director-General discussed the role of cultural heritage to foster nation building, social inclusion and a sense of belonging, with President Ghani and EU High Representative Mogherini while visiting the exhibition “The Afghanistan we are proud of”, produced with the support of UNESCO and the European Union to showcase the wealth of cultural heritage in one of the most diverse countries in the world. Earlier this year, Irina Bokova inaugurated this exhibition in the Babur Gardens, in Kabul, alongside the Chief Executive of the Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah.
“Afghanistan holds a special place in UNESCO’s heart and work,” said the Director-General. “Over the last ten years, we have worked together to protect and promote Afghanistan’s uniquely rich heritage, and share it with the world.”
“I see this as an essential part of the wider strategy to support Afghanistan, to strengthen quality education for all, to defend freedom of expression and access to information – these are vital for robust civil societies, for the rule of law, for sustainability,” she continued.
The conference, which brought together high-level representatives from governments and international organizations, provided a platform for the government of Afghanistan to set out its vision for the future and its track record on reform.
This was an important opportunity for the international community to join forces, sustain funding and strengthen much needed cooperation in support of peace, state-building and development in Afghanistan.
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