4 March 2011
Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva called upon UNESCO to assist her country in building quality education, training journalists and promoting reconciliation during a meeting with Director-General Irina Bokova on 3 March 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.“We are a young nation, a young state,” said President Otunbayeva, referring to her country’s twenty years of independence being marked in 2011. “Investment in education and human resources is key,” she said, requesting UNESCO’s expertise to assess the country’s education system.
Recollecting the inter-ethnic clashes of April 2010, she stated that “culture and identity are very important. We have lived through very difficult historical times. UNESCO has supported us with good projects about how to heal and bring people together. A culture of peace and reconciliation is very important for today’s reality.” Drawing attention to the free press in her country, President Otunbayeva also called upon UNESCO to provide training for journalists.
Welcoming President Otunbayeva, the first woman elected to the head of a Central Asian republic, the Director-General said that “we are very proud of what you have done for your country and its democratic transformation and we are committed to support you.” She expressed UNESCO’s readiness to further assist with the evaluation of the Kyrgyz education system, affirming that “to invest in education is to invest out of the crisis. It is with education that you can make a difference.”
The Director-General also pledged support to the reconciliation process. “Now is the time to heal the wounds and try to build different relations, attitudes and values,” she told the President.
During her meeting with the Director-General, President Otunbayeva presented her with Kyrgyzstan’s ratification of the International Convention against Doping in Sport.
President Otunbayeva and the Director-General inaugurated a photo exhibition entitled “The Women of Kyrgyzstan for Peace and Tolerance,” alongside Ms Eleanora Mitrofanova, Chair of UNESCO’s Executive Board. Opening the exhibit, the Director-General stated that “The tensions of 2010 have shown the power of women to put a society back on its feet. These are images of women organizing elections, keeping families together, working to restore the fabric of society, to restore trust….I pledge all of UNESCO’s support to you and the Kyrgyz people as you work to build a peaceful future.” The exhibit was organized jointly by the UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office, Social and Human Sciences Unit, and the UN Women Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.