Activities of Secretary-General in Kyrgyzstan, 10-11 June

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres travelled to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, from Nukus, Uzbekistan, on the evening of Saturday, 10 June.

On Sunday morning, he held a bilateral meeting with President Almazbek Atambaev, and participated in a high-level forum on “Taza Koom”, a project on public service supported by the United Nations Development Programme, dedicated to bringing the Sustainable Development Goals to all the citizens of Kyrgyzstan.  

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the “Taza Koom” conference on public service, in Bishkek today:

I want first of all to express my deep gratitude to President [Almazbek] Atambaev for his gentle invitation that allowed me to come back to Kyrgyzstan.  I have to say that it is for me an enormous honour, and of course an enormous pleasure.

In more than 10 years, the exemplary cooperation with the Government and people of Kyrgyzstan in my past capacity as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I witnessed how, in very difficult circumstances sometimes, the people of Kyrgyzstan have made a deliberate choice for democracy, a deliberate choice for a regime based on the rule of law, the protection of human rights, with a vibrant civil society, making Kyrgyzstan the pioneer of democracy in Central Asia.

Now, with “Taza Koom”, you are not only the pioneer of democracy in Central Asia, but you are becoming also a pioneer in the build-up not only of a digital economy but of a digital environment.  And that is something extremely important in today’s world.

That is why it is an honour for me to address this important Conference on the national “Taza Koom” project — a project on digital technologies and e-governance to improve not only the way the State and the administration work, but also the way the people can benefit from the new technologies and the impact on their lives.

This is also a way to allow Kyrgyzstan to be more effective in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and to extend them to the benefits to all citizens.

The first decade of the twenty-first century showed that setting development goals at the international level can bring great benefits to humanity.  The Millennium Development Goals were instrumental in mobilizing international efforts to lift more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty, combat hunger, improve health and advance access to education, especially for girls.

But the fruits of progress have not been enjoyed by all.  We still live in a world of great inequality, where destitution coexists with extreme wealth; where the environment is under severe stress; and where many countries are suffering from armed conflict and natural disasters.

And there is a new source of poverty:  the digital divide, the digital inequality that seems to draw the line between countries that have a future and countries that will be lagging behind in the decades to come.

Now, two years ago, world leaders adopted the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals at its heart.  The Agenda is our shared plan to transform the world in 15 years and, crucially, to build lives of dignity for all.

But governance will be crucial in bringing the agenda to life.  And an important form of governance is e-governance, and that is why “Taza Koom” is so important.

Indeed, the Goals firmly bring back to the fore the role of Government and institutions in sustainable development.  But today we need another kind of governance.  We need governance that is capable of delivering results and earning the public’s trust; governance that is coherent and accountable; governance that is inclusive and that listens to all the country’s citizens; governance that upholds human rights and leaves no one behind.  This is the kind of governance that “Taza Koom” can support to strengthen.

Public service is a critical component for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  But we need to pioneer new approaches, work differently, take risks and innovate.  This means training in new skills and building the capacities of the public sector.  And it means seizing the potential of technological innovations to create more responsive, efficient and collaborative public services.

We cannot talk about effective, accountable public service without underscoring, as the President said, the need to fight corruption at every turn. Again, “Taza Koom” is an extremely important tool to make corruption more difficult.  Corruption not only diverts and drains essential public resources but also undermines trust in government.

We also need mechanisms that give a voice to people, but we need to include the poorest and most vulnerable, so that they have opportunities not only to define their needs but also to be part of the efforts to design ways to address them.  And again, in the film we have seen and as the President said, it was clear that “Taza Koom” can be a way to empower the poorest and the most vulnerable.

In this context and in this spirit, I welcome the commitment of the Kyrgyz Republic to the 2030 Agenda.  You are taking important steps to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are at the cornerstone of your own 2040 National Sustainable Development Strategy.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and all other United Nations agencies will continue to support you in these efforts.

The “Taza Koom” project rightly focuses on human capital, innovation and technology.  It can help to build a transparent and more open Government that provides better services while respecting the environment.  It supports businesses and broader economic activity by facilitating the opening of new markets and enhancing competitiveness.  And it aims to increase efficiency while addressing corruption.

The United Nations system, for its part, is in the process of strengthening itself to better serve Member States.  We look forward to continue working with Kyrgyzstan towards the fulfilment of your people’s aspirations.  “Taza Koom” will create enormous opportunities to enhance the cooperation between the United Nations, and the Government and people of Kyrgyzstan.

In a joint press conference following the forum, the Secretary-General said that Kyrgyzstan was the pioneer of democracy in Central Asia and that the United Nations would fully support the Government in the implementation of “Taza Koom”.

Guterres expressed deep gratitude to Atambayev, the government and the people of Kyrgyzstan for the warm welcome of the delegation during a recent visit to Bishkek and Osh. “Kyrgyzstan is a unique country, and I believe that our cooperation has already brought great benefits to the Kyrgyz people. I am grateful that we were able to exchange views on regional cooperation and common problems. In this regard, I urge you to continue your cooperation with the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia. Preventive diplomacy is always the most effective tool for finding solutions to the most contentious issues,” the message said. “I recall visiting Osh as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, when communities struggled to cope with the consequences of the tragic events of June 2010. During my recent visit, I was very pleased to personally evaluate the results of your efforts to reconcile the parties. I am also grateful for the opportunity to take part in the ceremony of laying wreaths at the monument “Tears of Mothers,” said in the message.

Guterres also expressed gratitude for generous hospitality. “I also recall the fascinating discussion about the history of Altai and Kyrgyz during lunch, which you kindly held in my honor,” the message said.

According to the UN Secretary General, Kyrgyzstan is an important partner of the UN. “Your leadership and commitment to the work of the Organization is highly appreciated, and I look forward to further strengthening our cooperation,” Guterres added.

He also met with the Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament, Chynybai Tursunbekov, and with United Nations staff working in the country, before travelling to Osh to commemorate the June 2010 events.  He said that the people of Osh have demonstrated a remarkable resilience, an enormous patience and a capacity to recover from these terrible days that need to be praised by all of us. 

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the commemoration of the June 2010 events in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, today:

When I was here in 2010, the people of Osh were struggling to cope with the consequences of the tragic events in June that year.  Those were terrible days, but the people of Osh have demonstrated a remarkable resilience, an enormous patience and a capacity to recover from these terrible days that need to be praised by all of us.

On laying a wreath on this beautiful monument, I want to express my deep condolences to the families of all these victims of the terrible events of 2010 and to express my total solidarity with the people of Osh, the people of Jalalabad, and of all the other places in which these unfortunate events took place.

The Mother’s Tears [monument] should remind all of us that societies in the world are becoming multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural, and that must be seen as a positive thing.  It is a richness, not a threat.  Diversity needs to be cherished, not to be condemned.

You have done a lot in the past for reconciliation to create the conditions for the future peace and prosperity of this region but it is good to remember that reconciliation is something that should never end.

When we see so many conflicts in communities, even in the most developed countries of the world, we understand that for diversity to be a richness, a lot of investment must be made — political, economic, social, cultural, religious — in order for people to live together, to respect each other, to appreciate each other, to intermarry, and to create a community in which each one feels his or her identity is respected but each one also feels that he or she belongs to the community of the country.

I know that the Government, the local authorities, the communities will go on making that investment to consolidate reconciliation in this region.  And this is the holy month of Ramadan — a month that should reminds us all that peace and tolerance must prevail because that is the true face of Islam.

I know that you have a vibrant community, a vibrant society; your bazaar is one of the busiest in Central Asia.  May the sacred mountain of Sulaiman-Too be the symbol of your unity and the symbol of your determination to build a future of peace, prosperity and reconciliation.

I remember coming to Osh, I remember working hand in hand with so many compassionate people of the two communities in this city, and you can be sure that the United Nations will always be at your service.  Long live the people of Osh.

He then met with civil society representatives, before leaving Kyrgyzstan for Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he arrived in the evening.