Meeting with Nepal’s President, Prime Minister and senior authorities one year after a devastating earthquake incurred huge loss of life and extensive damage, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova pledged her solidarity and determination to support the country’s recovery, democratic transition and inclusive development in Kathmandu on 18 April.
Ms Bokova commended President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli for the adoption of a new Constitution in September 2015 and their commitment to peace and the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda. “This agenda is about leaving no one behind, and UNESCO will accompany your efforts to rebuild, increase capacity and strengthen institutions,” said the Director-General.
Praising the resilience of the Nepalese people, Ms Bokova said that the country’s s culture and heritage were mobilizing factors to move forward and she recognized that stronger international mobilization is required to accompany the long recovery process.
President Bhandari acknowledged the ups and downs of the last year. "It has been a year of happiness and sadness for Nepal," said the President, the first woman to hold this position, referring to the extent of damage to cultural heritage, schools and housing on the one hand, and the significance of a new Constitution on the other. “We have entered a new era with the promulgation of Constitution that enshrines the rights of women and minority groups. We are now in the process of implementing it to the fullest,” she added.
To this end, President Bhandari places top priority on addressing gender inequalities and illiteracy. “Our campaign is to eradicate gender imbalances and achieve gender equality, but we are still in rudimentary phase,” said the President, requesting UNESCO’s increased assistance in this area. She shared her ambition to step up action on literacy by involving retired teachers, officials as well as students as volunteers.
The Director-General informed the country’s leadership about the launch in Nepal, during her visit, of the Joint Programme for the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Education, which will contribute to keeping girls in schools, improving health and preventing child marriage.
The President and Prime Minister expressed appreciation for UNESCO’s work, especially to improve education standards in rural areas, increase people’s awareness and safeguard cultural heritage. They said that Nepal has been a strong supporter of UNESCO since it joined in 1953, and was proud to be a member of the Executive Board.
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said that the reconstruction would take years and should encourage new styles and methods, while also reviving traditional culture, art and knowledge. Having been imprisoned for years in solitary confinement, he underlined the commitment of his Government to democracy and to improving the lives of the people.
The Minister of Education, Mr Giriaj Mani Pokhrel, also underlined the signficance of the Constitution that guarantees the right to education.
To achieve this, the Ministry is focusing on regions with the lowest indicators and adopting a holistic approach that encompasses early childhood development, literacy and the systemic reform of the education sector to implement SDG4.
He said that capacity gaps remain large, and stressed the importance of UNESCO’s continued technical expertise and global knowledge to move forward. The Director-General asserted that UNESCO would look at different levels of engagement, including curricula, skills, teacher training and the education of adolescent girls.
During her meetings, the Director-General was accompanied by the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Ms Ambika Devi Luintel. The Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Bishwa Prakesh Pandit, hosted a luncheon for the Director-General, during which he affirmed that UNESCO and Nepal share the same values and goals as UNESCO.
The Director-General also discussed challenges facing the country during a meeting with the UN Country Team.