National Commissions for UNESCO Gather in Astana

Cover image_ First interregional meeting of national commissions for UNESCOASTANA – The first interregional meeting of the National Commissions for UNESCO  on July 22-24 in Astana. The meeting, held for the first time outside of UNESCO headquarters in Paris, was jointly organised by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture, as well as the Akimat (city administration) of Astana and UNESCO.

The meeting brought together National Commissions representing all regions of the world to discuss perspectives for capacity-building, strengthening cooperation and promoting National Commissions’ best practices.

Heads and members of 125 member states’ National Commissions representing UNESCO’s five regional groups – the Arab states, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America a Latin America and the Caribbean – attended the meeting.

Kazakhstan’s National Commission includes the heads of key ministries and national committees, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Sport Serik Sapiyev, Chairs of UNESCO-associated schools and clubs as well as a number of prominent scholars and public figures in cultural and artistic circles.

Representatives of UNESCO’s partner international organisations ALECSO (the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation), IICAS (the Institute for International, Comparative and Area Studies) and TURKSOY (the International Organisation for Turkic Culture) attended the meeting on behalf of observing parties.

“Kazakhstan warmly welcomes participants of the first interregional meeting of National Commissions for UNESCO, gathered today in our young capital. We are pleased that the leadership of UNESCO entrusted Kazakhstan with holding the first event in this format. I hope that such meetings will become a positive tradition and an effective instrument of our cooperation,” Secretary of State of Kazakhstan Adilbek Dzhaksybekov said, reading the welcoming speech of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the gathered participants.

“Today, the promotion of the ideals of UNESCO requires constant efforts on the part of member countries and the full use of this unique tool of cooperation, the National Commission for UNESCO. I am convinced that the first interregional meeting will be an important step towards strengthening partnerships,”  said.

According to the ead of tate, Kazakhstan is making every possible effort in promoting UNESCO’s values, principles and ideas of tolerance. Kazakhstan has put forward a number of global initiatives, including the International Year and Decade of the Rapprochement of Cultures. Astana has also become the venue for the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

“In May 1992, Kazakhstan joined UNESCO and was the very first member country from Central Asia. And as soon as the National Commission was created in 1994, Kazakhstan organised a cluster office of UNESCO in Almaty,” said UNESCO Deputy Director General for External Relations and Public Information Eric Falt at the opening.

“I want to thank the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan for their help and cooperation, which was really rich and rewarding …” noted Falt, who commended UNESCO and Kazakhstan’s 20 years of cooperation.

“Also, let me recognise the central role which Kazakhstan plays in providing a strategic structure for the international community on advancing cross-cultural and interreligious dialogue …”  he added.

The meeting also included a ceremony marking the inclusion of eight cultural heritage sites within Kazakhstan on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Those sites include the ancient settlements of Kayalyk, Karamergen and Talgar in the Almaty region and Aktobe, Stepninskoe, Akyrtas, Kulan, Kostobe and Ornek in the Zhambyl region.

The sites have been added as part of the joint transnational serial nomination with China and Kyrgyzstan known as “Monuments of the Great Silk Road: Tien-Shan Corridor.”

Two national biosphere parks in Kazakhstan, Katon-Karagha and Akzhayik, were also added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Chairman of the National Commission of Kazakhstan for UNESCO and Minister of Culture Arystanbek Mukhamediuly recognisedthe hard work that resulted in Astana hosting the gathering.

“The purpose of the meeting is to identify ways to strengthen the partnership among the National Commissions, between the National Commissions and the UNESCO Secretariat, as well as provide a venue for a broad discussion of issues on the agenda of the organisation. Astana became the venue of the meetingdue to successful holding of many international forums in Astana and the cooperation of Kazakhstan and UNESCO …” said Mukhamediuly.

He also praised the role of Ambassador-Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to UNESCO Olzhas Suleimenov and former Chairman of the National Commission of Kazakhstan for UNESCO Imangali Tasmagambetov. Tasmagambetov received a UNESCO Honorary Medal from UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova for his contribution to strengthening cooperation between UNESCO and Kazakhstan as well as safeguarding the historic heritage of the Great Silk Road.

Kazakhstan is a party to 14 international conventions under the auspices of UNESCO, including conventions on protecting intangible cultural heritage and on prohibiting the loss or sale of cultural property. In 2010, during the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures declared by the UN General Assembly at Kazakhstan’s initiative, member states, international and regional partners and the UNESCO Secretariat organised over 1,000 events around the world. Introducing the report for the year, UNESCO Director General Bokova stressed Kazakhstan’s in promoting dialogue between cultures and religions. In 2011, the UNESCO General Conference supported the Kazakh resolution (co-authored with 27 countries) on the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-202). The aim of the decade is to promote global peace-building dialogue and UNESCO’s strategy “New Humanism in the 21Century.”

During the first interregional meeting of the National Commissions for UNESCO, chairmen of the National Commission of the Asia-Pacific regional group, representing 26 countries, discussed the importance of effective collaboration between the National Commission and the General Secretariat of UNESCO. Reports were made by Director of the New Delhi UNESCO Office Shigeru Aoyagi, General Secretary of the National Commission of Kazakhstan for UNESCO and ISESCO Assel Utegenova, General Secretary of the National Commission of Saint Lucia Marcia Symphorien, Secretary General of the National Commission for Hungary Katalin Csillag and Executive Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission Arif Rahman.

The Europe and North America regional session, in which 28 countries were represented, paid particular attention to the assistance and support on offer for newly formed National Commissions.

African leaders of National Commissions representing 36 countries discussed the work of UNESCO in general and the national characteristics of African countries.

The sessions developed recommendations and conclusions that were presented at the closing plenary session.

Astana’s city administration organised a cultural festival for visiting delegates, “Millennium Around Astana.”

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