Daw Aung San Suu Kyi receives UNESCO Prize as Organization launches projects to support reforms in Myanmar
– Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy received the 2002 UNESCO-Mandanjeet Singh Prize for Tolerance and Non-Violence today. The award was presented to her by Ryuhei Hosoya, head of the Office of the Director-General of UNESCO in Myanmar, where he is on an official visit. Mr Hosoya had met earlier with the Deputy Minister of Education, Ba Shwe and Deputy Minister of Culture Daw Sandar Khin in Nay Pyi Taw.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to receive the award in 2002 because of her detention under house arrest. She thanked UNESCO and Madanjet Singh for the prize. “I look forward to the day when Burma and UNESCO can work together more closely than they have done until now,” she added.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, welcomed Myanmar’s ambitious reform programme, which made it possible for Aung San Suu Kyi to receive the Prize: “UNESCO welcomes the government of Myanmar’s comprehensive programme of democratization and reform and we are determined to accompany this process in our fields of competence,” said the Director-General. “Together, we are working on projects in education, culture and media development, sectors which are essential for dialogue, reconciliation and development,” she said.
UNESCO, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is helping Myanmar’s new civilian government to deliver educational reforms. The Organization’s contribution focuses on teacher training programmes and education planning which will be implemented under the Multi-donor Education Fund.
UNESCO is also supporting a range of other initiatives, including projects to strengthen HIV prevention among youth as part of the government's National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS (2011-2015) and discussion on a possible peace education project for ethnic minorities in northern Rakhine State.
Cooperation in culture is being revived with a UNESCO project to mobilize international expertise for the protection of Myanmar’s heritage sites, notably its ancient Pyu settlements from the 1st to 9th centuries A.D. along the Ayeyawady Valley, and Bagan with its 2,500 Buddhist temples dating back to the 10th – 14th centuries. This work has been made possible thanks to funding provided by Italy.
Myanmar has also expressed interest in proposing properties for inscription on the World Heritage List. The country has been party to the World Heritage Convention since 1994 but has no sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Press freedom is a key component in the transition to democracy. Government officials in Myanmar have requested UNESCO’s assistance in drafting new media laws favourable to the development of freedom of expression and free and independent media. UNESCO is also contributing to training programmes for journalists and media processes as well as organizing a conference on media development in Myanmar (March 2012).
Another area of cooperation concerns the preservation of Inle Lake in the Shan State – the lake is facing the devastating effects of both climate change and the unsustainable use due to population growth in the area and the development of tourism. The project has been launched along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the government of Norway.
UNESCO has had a project Antenna, or office, in Yangon since May 2009. It was set up in response to Cyclone Nargis and is part of the United Nations Country Team. It works closely with the government and donors to support the reform process.