UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova received the Hilal-i-Pakistan award from President Mamnoon Hussain in recognition of her meritorious services for the people of Pakistan in Islamabad on 6 February. The distinction is the country's highest civil honour.
The citation referred specifically to the Director-General's solidarity and support extended after the 2010 floods, her role in establishing the Malala Fund for girls' right to education, as well as Pakistan's tsunami early warning system and its response capacity to other ocean-related hazards. It equally referred the launch of the Mohenjodaro exhibtion at the 184th Executive Board to highlight the importance of preserving the Indus Valley civilization.
Meeting the President, the Director-General stated that the award represented a symbol of appreciation for UNESCO's cooperation with Pakistan and praised the government for its ambitious human development programme. "To achieve sustainable develpment and peace we have to put education at the center. Pakistan has one of the youngest nations in the world with more than 60 percent under age 25. Education will ensure sustainability, economic growth and job creation. You are doing the right thing putting the emphasis on girls' education - a human right that is also good for families, communities and the nation."
The President concurred thay "education is foremost for resource development" and called upon UNESCO's support for developing education, reaching marginalized and disabled people and coping with the impact of natural disaster. The President referred to the government's efforts to overcome the law and order situation through a process of dialogue.
Mrs Bokova recognized the challenges in the region, affirming that "when there is conflict there cannot be development. Ignorance breeds extremism. This is why education is so important. It is our response to extremism."*** She pledged that UNESCO will accompany Pakistan to achieve growth, inclusiveness, equity and sustainability.