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Reviving the spirit of tolerance and non-violence in Myanmar

©UNESCO/S.Chaiyasook

Ryuhei Hosoya, Director of the Office of the UNESCO Director General, presents Daw Aung San Suu Kyi UNESCO-Mandanjeet Singh Prize for Tolerance and Non-Violence awarded to her in 2002. ©National League for Democracy

05.03.2012

It was after 10 years when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the UNESCO-Mandanjeet Singh Prize for Tolerance and Non-Violence awarded to her in 2002.

The award was presented to her in Myanmar on 10 February 2012 by Ryuhei Hosoya, Director of the Office of the UNESCO Director General, on an official visit. 

In this interview, Mr. Hosoya talked about his time with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and on UNESCO activities in Myanmar. 

 

Q: How did it feel to hand over the Mandanjeet Singh Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi almost 10 years after her nomination in 2002? 

A: These ten years were a period of continued political struggle for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She personified the spirit of tolerance and non-violence, which is what this prize stands for. It was indeed a great honour for me to represent the Director General to deliver the prize trophy to her. 

What made it particularly gratifying was the fact that the long wait was requited at a moment when her spiritual quest was finally starting to see the light of day. The trophy, which is a bronze statuette depicting Venus rising from the sea, and signifying the beginning of eternity, was in fact inspired by Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi, according to its creator, Ms. Toshimi Ishii.


“The trophy, which is a bronze statuette depicting Venus rising from the sea, and signifying the beginning of eternity, was in fact inspired by Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi…”  

“What happened in the ensuing years is history. I never thought I would live to see this day, let alone to come back to Myanmar with such a role!” 

“…it is the human resources of Myanmar which hold the greatest potential for development.”

Q: How do you see the current political change in Myanmar (also bearing in mind your personal experience working in Myanmar for the Japanese Embassy about 20 years back)?

A: The spring of 1988 saw the rise of the movement for democracy in Myanmar (still called Burma at the time). Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was back in Yangon from the UK to nurse her ailing mother. I arrived from Japan to work for the Embassy, reporting to Ambassador Hiroshi Ohtaka, who was a close neighbor of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He would come back to office from his meetings with her and dictate to me his reports to Tokyo. 

What happened in the ensuing years is history. I never thought I would live to see this day, let alone to come back to Myanmar with such a role!


The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence is dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in the arts, education, culture, science and communication. It is awarded every two years to individuals or institutions for outstanding contributions to the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The Prize was created in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma Gandhi, thanks to the generosity of the Indian writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh. 

Q: Will this lead to new opportunities for UNESCO to work in the country?

Absolutely. This was the Director General's personal message that I conveyed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. UNESCO stands by her and her nation on its road to democracy. We will deploy means within our fields of competence to support their process of reform, reconciliation, and development. 

Q: What will UNESCO focus on in terms of programme activities in the country?

A: In collaboration with funding partners and fellow UN Agencies, our Project Antenna in Yangon is already actively engaged in on-going or pipeline projects across UNESCO's areas of mandate. These programmes focus on teacher training, assistance in the listing of cultural heritage sites, biosphere conservation, and in media legislation. Further cooperation is envisaged for education sector planning, higher education, technical and vocational training, cultural heritage restoration, and listing of intangible cultural heritage. 

Q: What does UNESCO want to achieve for the country and the people in Myanmar?    


UNESCO has had a project Antenna, or office, in Yangon since May 2009. It was set up in response to Cyclone Nargis and is part of the United Nations Country Team. It works closely with the government and donors to support the reform process.

A: What UNESCO can achieve for Myanmar and its people will be determined by our sectoral parameters, but more fundamentally by the nature of our functions, which, broadly defined, lie in the realm of ideas in its many facets; upstream policy advice, capacity building, normative standard setting and intellectual clearing house.

Among its many resources, it is the human resources of Myanmar which hold the greatest potential for development. That is why there is a particular scope for UNESCO's role in Myanmar. This view was expressed by none other than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself.

 

Related articles: 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi receives UNESCO Prize as Organization launches projects to support reforms in Myanmar (UNESCO Press Release No.2012 - 12)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi receives UNESCO prize (Myanmar Times, February 20, 2012)