Senior UN officials in China have stressed to the Chinese government the need to involve Tibetans in the decision-making process concerning developmental projects in their land and the need for greater access to Tibet for international aid agencies.

The UN officials were participating in a two-day seminar on “International Cooperation in Tibet Autonomous Region Promoting Common Development through Increased Cooperation and Exchanges” in Beijing on June 25-26, 2002.

The UN Development Program Resident Representative in China, Kerstin Leitner, told the seminar in Beijing on June 25, 2002, that the Tibetan people must be involved in the development of their region for aid programs to work.

“Without their active engagement and cooperation, any development program will not take root in the Tibetan community and thus will only have a very limited impact,” said Leitner according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

She cited Tibet’s deeply rooted language, religion, arts and other traditions, which she said could not be easily replaced or modernized.

Ngouemo Moukala from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural arm, told AFP that China’s attitude toward preserving Tibet’s traditions would affect the West’s view of the issue and would impact aid there.

“The international community is very interested in protecting Tibet’s cultural heritage, but unfortunately, the Chinese government has put up a lot of obstacles blocking us from working in this area,” Moukala said.

Wang Shouwen, a Chinese trade official for the Tibetan Autonomous Region concerned with development projects in Tibet, told the seminar donors that “We welcome aid from outside China, but the aid should be provided without any political preconditions.”

“If the projects are aimed at splitting China, then the aid will be unwelcome,” Wang continued.

Wang said regulations governing foreign nongovernmental organizations operating in Tibet had recently been eased, but added that donors should not expect to be able to dictate terms in exchange for assistance.

According to UNDP, its second country cooperation framework for China, covering the 2001 – 2005 period, provides core resources of approximately U.S. $39 million. During this period UNDP will emphasize growth with equity across regions and between population groups in China.

The UN said that its three goals in China during the 2001-2005 period are to (1) promote sustainable development to reduce disparities (2) support favorable conditions for national reform and development process and (3) assist China in meeting global challenges and promoting international cooperation.

The conference was organized by Chinese authorities in Beijing and Lhasa in an effort to promote aid to Tibet.