The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is already assisting with a number of initiatives in Myanmar, voiced its readiness to work even more closely with the South-East Asian nation as it moves forward with planned reforms.
“UNESCO welcomes the Government of Myanmar’s comprehensive programme of democratization and reform and we are determined to accompany this process in our fields of competence,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
Ms. Bokova’s comments came as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), received the 2002 UNESCO-Mandanjeet Singh Prize for Tolerance and Non-Violence today.
The award was presented to her by Ryuhei Hosoya, head of the Office of the Director-General of UNESCO, who is on an official visit to Myanmar.
Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was unable to receive the award in 2002 because of her detention under house arrest. “I look forward to the day when Burma and UNESCO can work together more closely than they have done until now,” she said as she accepted the prize.
Last year Myanmar’s President Thein Sein decided to grant amnesty and to set free a significant number of prisoners of conscience as part of a series of reform measures that also included dialogue between the Government and Ms. Suu Kyi.
Ms. Bokova welcomed the country’s “ambitious” reform programme, the agency stated in a news release. She noted that the agency is already working on projects in education, culture and media development, sectors which are essential for dialogue, reconciliation and development.
Among other projects, UNESCO, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is helping Myanmar’s new civilian government deliver educational reforms as well as supporting projects to strengthen HIV prevention among youth and drafting new media laws that promote freedom of expression and a free and independent media.
Cooperation in culture is being revived with a UNESCO project to mobilize international expertise for the protection of Myanmar’s heritage sites. The country has also expressed interest in proposing properties for inscription on the World Heritage List.