UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay carried out an official visit to Uzbekistan from 26 to 28 August, where she examined ongoing projects and ways to reinforce cooperation during meetings with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and senior officials.
Discussions with President Mirziyoyev focused on support for the country’s policies and capacities in cultural heritage rehabilitation-notably for the World Heritage sites of Samarkand, Boukhara and Shakhrisabz-and ongoing priority projects in education, water diplomacy, biodiversity, freedom of expression and media literacy.
During the first day of her visit, the Director General took part at the opening of the International Conference on the Preservation of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage, in Samarkand, in the presence of Abdulla Aripov, Prime Minister of Uzbekistan.
Approximately ten ministers of culture and tourism attended the Conference, including five from Central Asia. The event helped design a stronger vision for the protection and conservation of World Heritage sites, reinforcing support for the preservation of intangible cultural heritage. A large number of international and national experts and representatives of the scientific community, institutions and civil society attended the conference, where discussions took stock of recent encouraging preservation projects led by UNESCO at the Ark Citadel of Bukhara and at the Shahi Zinda Mausoleum Complex in Samarkand.
As growing mass tourism, urbanization and environmental crises place added pressures on many sites, the Director-General stressed the critical challenges all countries face in safeguarding their heritage and implementing the World Heritage Convention, the most important global instrument for the protection of heritage.
“Samarkand is a treasure born of the encounter between the Persian, Indian, Chinese and Turkish worlds. Uzbekistan is the guardian of this universal legacy: it is a blessing as well as a responsibility before humanity,” said the Director general. She also emphasized the need to integrate existing tools for all forms of heritage, including intangible, natural and documentary heritage, with a special focus on local communities and education.
The Director-General opened the 12th edition of the Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival, and visited the Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001, and the Historic Centre of Bukhara, inscribed in 1993.
UNESCO is currently reinforcing its cooperation with Uzbekistan, especially on systemic educational reform, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, water management and the preservation of heritage. UNESCO and Uzbekistan adopted and signed a major programmatic action plan for 2018-2021 during President Mirziyoyev’s visit to UNESCO Headquarters in October 2018, the first such agreement in 20 years.