Literacy, education and the protection of Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage feature among the country’s top priorities for cooperation with UNESCO, affirmed Mr Mohammad Sarwar Danish, Second Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, during a meeting with Director-General Irina Bokova on 9 September 2015.
Vice-President Danish, who addressed the opening of the Global Meeting on Literacy and Sustainable Societies at UNESCO Headquarters on 8 September, chairs a number of Cabinet sub-committees linked to UNESCO’s mandate, including on literacy, gender equality and women’s affairs; youth, and the cultural and social sciences. He underlined the importance of UNESCO’s mandate, noting that education, culture and science have an increasingly central role to play in today’s world. “The people and Government of Afghanistan attach high importance to UNESCO’s activities,” he said, recalling that Afghanistan joined UNESCO in 1948, and despite an often challenging situation, has remained an active member of the Organization.
Recognizing the vital role that UNESCO has played in supporting literacy through both the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan programme (supported by Japan, Sweden and Finland) and the Literacy for Empowering Afghan Police, he said that “enormous challenges” remain that call for more attention and increased support from donors.
Turning to Afghanistan’s rich history and cultural contribution to humankind, he shared the nation’s difficulty in protecting and restoring many of its historical sites. He requested UNESCO’s assistance to inscribe tangible and intangible cultural heritage and to run short trainings to build the capacity of cultural heritage institutions in provinces that are home to the most numerous historical sites.
He paid tribute to the work of the UNESCO Kabul office and recommended its further strengthening, and noted also the importance of supporting the countries numerous non-governmental organizations specialized in education, culture and science. He affirmed Afghanistan’s ambition to strengthen its representation in UNESCO, in particular through membership in various intergovernmental committees and commissions.
The Director-General underscored the importance of UNESCO’s partnership with Afghanistan and noted that the Organization holds “high ambitions” for the country, referring to the ELA programme, broad cooperation in education and its millennial cultural wealth. “I know the importance that President Ghani attaches to heritage and to the development of cultural industries that can boost the economy and foster social cohesion,” she said, noting that UNESCO stands ready to catalyze further support for the safeguarding and promotion of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
She expressed hope that President Ghani would be in a position to attend the Leaders’ Forum of UNESCO’s General Conference in order to pass an important message about building peace and sustainable development on the occasion of the Organization’s 70th anniversary.