UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits Uzbekistan for first time
On 10 June, UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in Uzbekistan, as part of his first-ever foray into Central Asia, and visited Samarkand and Nukus.
Guterres’ visit to Central Asia’s most populous country started with a wreath laying ceremony at late President Islam Karimov’s grave. The UN delegation then made its way to the presidential reception facility in Samarkand.
Mr. Guterres then met with members of civil society in the Yuksalish neighborhood, where he was told about the unique Uzbek institution of mahalla and its role in social processes. The meeting was attended by representatives of various nationalities residing in this mahalla.
The Secretary-General also visited Registan, a medieval architectural landmark in the heart of Samarkand, that is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The highlight of the visit was a meeting with the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The two sides discussed cooperation between the UN and Uzbekistan in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as regional security.
In Nukus, Mr. Guterres attended a brief presentation on the Aral Sea problem and departed for the city of Moynak on a helicopter and viewed the current area of the Aral Sea and the ship graveyard. Speaking at a press conference, the UN chief called the Aral Sea “probably the biggest ecological catastrophe of our time.”
“The Aral Sea’s progressive disappearance was not because of climate change, it was mismanagement by humankind of water resources. But it also shows that if in relation to climate change, we are not able to act forcefully to tame this phenomenon, we might see this kind of tragedy multiply around the world,” he said.
Addressing the Aral Sea crisis is one of the UN’s top priority tasks. UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and the UN Volunteers in Uzbekistan have put in place a Joint UN Programme designed to improve livelihoods for the local population affected by the Aral Sea disaster. The programme is aimed at disseminating successful pilot projects, expanding the scope of the concept of human safety at national level and creating a financial mechanism for coordination of donors, a Multilateral Foundation for Human Safety in the Aral Sea Region. The Foundation will seek to support the Government’s efforts to eliminate the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster.
Returning to Nukus, the UN chief visited the famous Savitsky Art Museum, where he viewed the unique collection of fine art and applied art. He also signed the guestbook and accepted commemorative gifts from the museum administration.
Mr. Guterres thanked the Government and people of Uzbekistan for a warm welcome and departed the country to visit other Central Asian states.