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18:32 | Feb 14 | 2012

Yakutia and UNESCO: 20 Years Together

In late 1990, the Republic's leadership proposed to create a regional office in Yakutsk to the Commission of the USSR for UNESCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR. The Republic’s proposal was supported and as soon as January 11, 1991 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of Yakutia adopted a resolution "On Foundation of the National Committee for UNESCO”.

What did Mr. Matsuura have time to do?
Twenty years passed since the establishment of the Committee, which were filled with various events organized within the framework of the main activities of the United Nations – education, science, culture and communication. Over the years many international events, projects and programs have been implemented, which laid a solid foundation for further cooperation with UNESCO and helped to develop international relations of the Republic.
One of such events - the Days of the Sakha Republic - took place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in 2005 under the general title “Culture of the Permafrost”. The Republic’s president of that time, Vyacheslav Shtyrov, met with Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO. Mr Matsuura expressed great interest in Yakutia and reported well of UNESCO's programs implemented in the Republic. Furthermore, a scientific conference on “Cultural and Biological Diversity as the Basis for Sustainable Development of the Arctic Territories of the Russian Federation (The Sakha Republic (Yakutia) case study)” was held as part of the event. The recommendations on key areas of cooperation between UNESCO and the Republic were adopted as a result of this conference.
As early as next year, 2006, Koichiro Matsuura arrived in Yakutia. Despite the fact that the visit lasted only two and a half days, Mr Matsuura had a lot to see and do. During the visit, Director-General participated in laying the first stone at the site of the future Olonkho International Centre, opened the International Forum “Sustainable Development of the Arctic and Northern Regions of the Russian Federation in the Context of Education, Science and Culture”. The main outcome of the visit was the signing of the Joint Communiqué between the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and UNESCO, which contained all projects for long-term cooperation.

Schools for young nomads
Currently, a lot of different UNESCO projects function in the Republic. The most successful and long-lived among them is “UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network” (ASPnet), which was initiated by UNESCO in 1953. Elizaveta Sidorova is the Regional Coordinator of the project and co-chair of the National Committee for UNESCO in Yakutia. The creation of this “Network” is one of the priority projects of the National Committee on Education.
Schools actively promote and develop joint ASP programs, as well as plan their own activities and work in such areas as environmental studies and methods of environment preservation, promotion of healthy lifestyles, implementation of programs to identify and support intellectually gifted children, study and preservation of the World Cultural and Natural heritage.
In addition to the UNESCO Associated Schools there are 13 nomadic schools in the Republic which operate in the framework of UNESCO project for the development of nomadic schools of Indigenous Peoples. Nomadic schools function to ensure the availability of general education to children of reindeer herders, fishermen, hunters, and other families who lead a nomad existence. Nomadic schools are regarded as a model of inclusive education, which has entered a new phase in its development thanks to the support of the Government of the Sakha Republic and UNESCO Office in Moscow. These schools combine ethno-pedagogic traditions and new educational technologies, individual educational programs are also being implemented, so the whole process of learning takes course in accordance with the federal state educational standards.

Pillars are in the preliminary list
In addition, intense work on the opening of the UNESCO Department on the basis of the North-east Federal University has been conducted since 2008. The main objective of the department is to resolve issues of society and human adaptation in the Arctic regions under restrictions of climate change and globalization. These problems are supposed to be solved through organizing international scientific and educational cooperation, improving education and awareness by means of modern information and communication technologies and creation of information environment on the Arctic regions in the Internet.
It is known that UNESCO contributes to the detection, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. The Lena Pillars are one of the unique monuments of nature. This weathered relics of the Lower Cambrian sediments account for 530 million years of age. In July 2006, the Nature Park “Lena Pillars” was included in the Preliminary List of World Heritage of the Russian Federation (Paris, UNESCO). The World Heritage Committee will be held in St. Petersburg on June 25 - July 5, 2012 after which it will finally be known whether the park is included in the World Heritage List.