ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY GENERAL IN UZBEKISTAN, 18-20 OCTOBER
At midday on Friday, 18 October, Secretary-General Kofi Annan flew to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, becoming the first United Nations Secretary-General to visit that country. He was greeted on arrival by Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov; he and the Foreign Minister spoke briefly at the airport.
He later went to the United Nations offices, where he met with the United Nations country team to review with them their programmes in the country. He then addressed about a hundred United Nations staff and took their questions, one of which was, “How can we foster a culture of human rights?”
The Secretary-General replied that the first step was to inform people of what their rights were, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, he said, the Government should be encouraged to adopt laws to protect those rights.
Governments everywhere today espoused democracy, but some did not necessarily believe in human rights, he observed. The people, however, did. Therefore, he said, his listeners should work with civic groups, spread the word and educate the young.
Several governments around the world use the “T”- word, “terrorism”, to crack down on dissidents, he concluded. There should be no trade-off between security and human rights.
He then went to the Parliament, where he met privately with committee chairmen and other parliamentary leaders. He told them he had come to Uzbekistan to see for himself the changes that had taken place in the 10 years since independence, and to offer support, solidarity and encouragement.
He set the agenda for the frank discussion that followed by posing the following questions:
-- What are your plans for restructuring the legislature, and will it reinvigorate political life and strengthen democratic institutions?
-- On economic reforms and social protection, what measures are beingconsidered to improve health care and education?
-- How are you dealing with ecological disaster, such as the disappearance of the Aral Sea? Do you need to diversify agriculture?
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21 October 2002
-- Transitional periods place a disproportionately heavy burden on women. What measures are you considering to protect vulnerable women?
He also asked how the United Nations could assist in these areas.
He left the Parliament and returned to the Government guesthouse where he met with Uzbekistan’s President, Islam Karimov, and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
At a press encounter with the President afterwards, the Secretary-General said that in their meeting he and the President had discussed the international fight against terrorism and developments in the region, water management, regional environmental issues, good governance and cooperation between the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government. He said they also discussed United Nations-Uzbek relations. “They’re good”, he added, “and we would want to strengthen it further”.
Asked to comment on human rights in Uzbekistan, the Secretary-General said, “Assistance to governments in terms of institution-building and human rights development, establishing the right regulatory system and the right laws is fast becoming one of our key activities in the United Nations.”
He went on, “In the discussions I had with the President, the relations between the Government and the Office of the High Commissioner [for Human Rights] will be strengthened…. The Government has also been kind enough to invite the Human Rights Rapporteur for Torture who I expect will be visiting the country shortly…. So we will work with this Government as we are working with others in strengthening human rights ….”
In the evening the President hosted a dinner in honour of the Secretary-General and his wife Nane.
On Saturday morning, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan flew from Tashkent to the old silk route trade post of Samarkand. After touring the city, they flew further west to another ancient city on the silk route, Bukhara, where they spent the night.
On Sunday afternoon, 20 October, they travelled to Kyrgyzstan to begin an official visit to that country.
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