Nancy Hatch Dupree, Afghan Centre at Kabul University and Nazifullah Salarzai, UNAMA Spokesperson Office

Ladies and Gentlemen: Good Morning, I am Nazifullah SaIarzai from the UNAMA Spokesperson’s Office. I am honoured to introduce someone who has dedicated most of her lifetime to save and preserve the cultural heritage of our Afghanistan.

Our guest speaker this week is Nancy Dupree who is probably the world’s leading authority on the cultural heritage of Afghanistan. She has been working in Afghanistan for decades and her work now has turned to a reference treasure for this country.

You may recall the SRSG Kai Eide, in a press conference recently said that Afghanistan has to be seen as a country not as a conflict. We think what else can better guide us than history to allow us to see it as a country, not as a conflict.

THE UN REFUGEE AGENCY HAS COMPLETED NEARLY 100 PER CENT OF ITS SHELTER PROGRAMME

The UN Refugee Agency has completed nearly 100 per cent of its shelter programme for the vulnerable returning refugees and internally displaced persons.

More than 10,000 families- numbering some 60,000 individuals- mainly returnees in the rural provinces of Afghanistan, where a high proportion of returnees have settled down, have benefited from the agency’s shelter programme

Last year, UNHCR assisted more than 280,000 registered Afghans to repatriate from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

Many of them have returned to their places of origin, but some are unable to go back to their villages as they have no land, shelter or job opportunities.

Overall, across the country since 2002, more than 180,000 families – around 1.2 million people – who otherwise would have not been able to live in their own homes, have been assisted to re-build their lives after years of conflict.

This is one of the largest UNHCR programmes in Afghanistan.

UNHCR has allocated some 14 million dollars for its shelter programme in 2009 that will support 10,000 families in building their own shelters.

This is expected to benefit approximately 60,000 individuals in provinces where returns remain high and where eligible returnees meet the criteria.

Now with no further due I hand over to Nancy.

NANCY HATCH DUPREE, AFGHANISTAN CENTRE AT KABUL UNIVERSITY (ACKU)

Leila and I are here representing ACKU, which means Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University. ACKU is a collection of 45,000 documents about Afghanistan. Subjects are ranging from health to agriculture from economy to politics. There are many documents about Afghan literature, and the rich culture and heritage of Afghanistan, newspapers from the time of the mujahideen and newspapers from the Taliban time.
So what is the purpose of this collection of 45,000 documents? The purpose is to share this information as widely as possible, in the rural communities, in the urban communities, among the government offices, among humanitarian aid agencies, with foreigners and with Afghans.

The motto of ACKU is nation building through information sharing. And why do we think so, we think it is important, because we firmly believe that if you give access to people to the knowledge they need in the way that is appropriate they can understand and a manner that pleases them. They themselves will be able to make improvements in their health, in their livelihood, which they do by themselves rather than depending so much on the outside.

And what does this do, when they receive this knowledge? That allows them to stand on their own feet; this gives them a sense of their own identity.

And when a person has a sense of his own identity, he is strong; he can meet the challenges that face him.

Afghans have shown during past decades that they have great capacity to cope with difficult situations. But more than this, when a nation i.e. the men, the women, and the children they belong to a nation to a country, and the nation acquires knowledge, they do acquire a sense of identity. And when a nation has a sense of its own identity, they can solve their problems peacefully rather than confrontationally with conflict.

So that is the purpose, how do we do this? We have several projects; one of them is digitization, digitization of our 45,000 documents. And soon we will have many more projects, the Kabul University, the Ministry of Higher Education, have given us a very beautiful plot on the Kabul University campus. And the Government of Afghanistan has given us the money to build a separate building on that land.

Yesterday we opened a bid for the construction of this building. So maybe in about a month we will start building and perhaps hopefully by the beginning, of next year we will have a new building where we can initiate many new projects.

Projects for sharing information like lectures series, exhibitions, seminars, courses and all kinds of video conferences, many ideas we have, we do not have space to do that now.

If you are interested in learning more about what we are going to do in this building, we will be very happy if you visit us. We are in the main library in Kabul University.