During the first interregional meeting of the National Commissions for UNESCO, organised by the Kazakhstan Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Astana akimat (city administration,) Minister of Culture ArystanbekMukhamediuly discussed Kazakhstan’s contributions to UNESCO programmes, the principles of their cooperation and the priorities of the National Commission of Kazakhstan.
Towards a New Humanism
Holding such an event on a global scale is unique because it gathers National UNESCO Commissions from all regions of the world for the first time. What is the purpose of the meeting and why was the capital of Kazakhstan chosen as a host city?
The policies pursued by President Nursultan Nazarbayev are characterised by the pursuit of peace, prosperity and security and have always entailed active cooperation with UNESCO, the organisation that plays a huge role not only in international unity, development and preservation of the world’s cultures, but also in a civilising mission. Astana has become a meeting place, not only because it has successfully established itself as an effective venue for major international events, including the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the Astana Economic Forum, the Eurasian Media Forum and many others. The decision to hold the meeting in Kazakhstan, adopted by UNESCO, once again confirms the high international prestige of our country and the head of state, whose initiatives have always been understood and supported by this influential global institution. The meeting of the National Commissions was held as part of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures 2013-2022, approved at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, which is one of President Nazarbayev’s major iniatives. This project aims to promote global dialogue and UNESCO peacemaking strategies, such as the New Humanism in the Twenty-First Century. As for the goals and objectives of the meeting, they were no less global and include consultations on increasing the potential of and finding ways to strengthen cooperation and promoting the best practices of national commissions.
Kazakhstan has cooperated with UNESCO since 1992 and has achieved a lot during this time. What are the main areas of cooperation between the parties?
Over the years, much has been done in terms of cooperation with UNESCO. Our interaction with this authoritative international institution is based on the 1995 memorandum of cooperation between Kazakhstan and UNESCO and the agreement on opening a UNESCO Bureau in Almaty that same year. In 2001, the bureau was given regional status and Kazakhstan became a member of 14 UNESCO conventions, including conventions on the protection of intangible cultural heritage and on prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property in 2011.
An important area of cooperation between Kazakhstan and UNESCO has been the State Cultural Heritage Programme aimed at promoting research on the historical and cultural heritage of Kazakhstan from 2004-2011. As part of the programme, restoration works were carried out on 19 historical and cultural monuments in 12 regions of the country. As of today, there are 198 National Commissions worldwide and their objectives and functions are set out in the UNESCO Constitution and the Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO affairs.
What are today’s main objectives?
The Kazakhstan Commission for UNESCO was established in 1993 under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2000 to 2014, it was lead by Imangali Tasmagambetov, who made great contributions to the Kazakhstan-UNESCO partnership. For many years, the commission has actively worked to deepen cooperation with other nations, in particular, those in Central Asia, in all UNESCO facets. For example, in 2011, the National Commission of Kazakhstan, jointly with the UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty and Kazakhstan’s Federation of UNESCO Clubs, successfully held the first regional meeting of National Commissions in Central Asia, which focused on the challenges and priorities of regional cooperation in all areas of the organisation. As experience has shown, such meetings provide the opportunity to not only identify areas of potential cooperation, but also take concrete steps towards joining other national efforts and promoting regional UNESCO initiatives.
Kazakhstan also promotes cooperation between the Turkic-speaking countries and cooperates in TURKSOY, a UNESCO partner organisation. In September 2012, Astana hosted the Meeting of the National Commissions for UNESCO of the Turkic-speaking countries, which played a significant role in the expansion of cooperation in achieving UNESCO and TURKSOY’s common goals.
No less important work is being done on the national level. New working bodies have been created at the National Commission of Kazakhstan. For example, along with the existing national committees for the MAB (Man and Biosphere) programme, Memory of the World and Bioethics Committee, we established the National Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. It was decided to finalise Kazakhstan’s multinational application for its Nowruz and Falconry projects and prepare the applications for Aitys and Yurt on behalf of Kyrgyzstan. Also, we submitted the first national applications for Karazhorga and Orteke. In April, we set up the National Committee for World Heritage, which contributed to the fruitful participation of our country’s delegation in the recent session of the World Heritage Committee in Qatar.
As known, there are several monuments in Kazakhstan on the List of UNESCO World Heritage sites. What new sites in Kazakhstan will be nominated for candidacy on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites?
We pay great attention to programmes aimed at the promotion and protection of national, world and natural heritage, cultural harmony and the ideology of non-violence. The UNESCO World Heritage List includes three monuments in Kazakhstan: The mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi, the petroglyphs at Tamgaly and the Korgalzhyn and the Nauryzum reserves in Sary-Arka’s steppes and lakes in North Kazakhstan. In due time, with the financial support of Japan, we implemented a project to preserve ancient Otrar. Just a month ago at the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Qatar, the first segment of the international bulk application consisting of multiple Silk Road historic sites was approved. The first segment, consisting of the Tien Shan Corridor (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China) was included on the list, which was nominated for candidacy by all three of these countries. Of this initiative’s 33 protected sites, eight are in Kazakhstan. They include: Kajalyk,Karamergen and Talgar in the Almaty and Aktobe regions and Stepninskoe, Akyrtas, Kulan, Kostobe and Ornek in the Zhambyl region.
At the recent 26th session of the International Coordinating Committee of UNESCO, Man and Biosphere, KatonKaragai National Natural Park and the Akzhaiyk Biosphere Reserve were added to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Also, much work is being done jointly between Kazakhstan and UNESCO on preparing Kazakhstan’s nominations to the UNESCO World Register of Documented Heritage, Memory of the World. Today, the register contains the manuscripts of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi, archival materials on the activities of the international antinuclear movement Nevada – Semipalatinsk, as well as the Aral Sea Archives. The Kazakh National Commission submitted a new application for preserving historical documents related to the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, prepared by the National Committee “Memory of the World” of the National Library of Kazakhstan.
What are the plans of your ministry for the near future, in particular for the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures?
Once again, I’d like to emphasise the uniqueness of this decade of festivities intended to intensify international efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue. I believe that the dialogue between cultures and religions is one of the best ways to strengthen this very fragile world. There needs to be fair dialogue on strengthening security and understanding. In our country, the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, with which we work very closely and which has successfully proved its effectiveness, plays a great role in this matter. The three-day programme of the First Meeting of National Commissions for UNESCO devoted considerable time to the assembly, including its exhibition.
As for our plans, we intend to continue to promote our applications in UNESCO and develop cultural tourism in conjunction with the tourism industry. In short, there is a wide field of activity and one goal, the rapprochement of cultures to promote closer relations among peoples, which is the main idea behind UNESCO and the national commissions.