Goodwill, beyond boundaries
It is heart warming to hear positive statements that the real face of Pakistan ‘are its hardworking, generous and beautiful people’ in an era when the world is awash with bad news.
It is indeed heart warming to hear positive statements that the real face of Pakistan ‘are its hardworking, generous and beautiful people’ in an era when the world is awash with war-raged news. Sitting across the room, as I saw the longest serving goodwill ambassador of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1998, I could not help but marvel at her humble attitude. “I am keen to use this opportunity to visit not just UNDP’s projects on the ground, but also to interact with a common Pakistani and to learn their culture, values and opinions,” she said with a tone of excitement in her voice. Ms Akiko Konno, a known Japanese actress, an active writer and winner of the 1995 Japan Writer’s Prize, concluded her visit to Pakistan as a Goodwill Ambassador on July 24.
I asked her what drives her, as a person, to remain with UNDP as its longest serving goodwill ambassador. “It is an honour to be representing the United Nations and be able to see the work on the ground, and meet with the common people who benefit from their support. I believe in respecting various cultures and values and I would like to take back this message of respect for human values and peace for the children in Japan.”
The primary purpose of her visit to Pakistan was to meet with key stakeholders including government leaders, partners and project beneficiaries to familiarize herself with UNDP’s support and promote Pakistan’s development agenda in her home country. She also expressed her keen interest in the role UNDP is playing in contributing towards disaster management in the country. She particularly mentioned meeting a woman affectee of the devastating earthquake of 2005 in Muzaffarabad and how despite language barriers, she could relate to her as a woman who has come out stronger despite all the pain and misery that the natural disaster brought upon the region. “The importance of managing disasters effectively cannot be underscored and it is good to see UNDP building the capacities of the communities to take the lead,” Ms Konno exclaimed to the DCO while visiting the District Disaster Management Authority in Nowshera.
She mentioned the gap she noticed between the rich and the poor and one of the reasons she has remained with UNDP is the poverty reduction focus. “Every child, particularly the girls, must have the opportunity to go to school and every family member should have access to medical treatment,” she shared her vision.
Ms Konno visited various communities in AJK and Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa and recalled her first impression of the community leaders, both men and women, as individuals who were trying hard, in all sincerity and enthusiasm to contribute towards their localities, citing particularly her visit to the refugee affected communities. She also appreciated UNDP’s role in being able to work at the very grassroots, with the people. “They are the real face of this country. Pakistanis are such generous, kind and hospitable people. My impression about this country has most definitely changed for the better and I take wonderful memories back with me.”