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Kosovo: Beyond monuments and heritage, it is memory and cultural identity that are being destroyed declares Director-General of UNESCO
Editorial Contact: Muriel de Pierrebourg, Office of the Spokeswoman, tel +33 (0)1 45 68 13 26 - Email

22-03-2004 4:00 pm The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today expressed his great concern over the events of the past few days in Kosovo and the surrounding region, which have provoked the loss of numerous human lives and damaged cultural and religious heritage.

“The international community is terribly shocked each time problems surface in the South East European region, endangering intercommunity dialogue that remains so fragile despite initiatives undertaken,” he declared. The Director-General, recalled the spirit of the Ohrid Declaration, approved by all of the Heads of State from the region in August 2003, in which they insisted on the role that cultural heritage could play as a powerful symbol of the identity of peoples and a factor of reconciliation on a regional level, underlining that “This may well serve as a foundation for a shared future.”

For these reasons, the Director-General of UNESCO strongly condemned the attacks against this rich cultural heritage reminding that it is “beyond monuments and heritage, it is a memory and cultural identity that are being destroyed.” Mr Matsuura reiterated the necessity of enforcing international normative instruments, especially the Hague Convention of 1954 on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols.

In order to evaluate the state of monuments and propose a plan of action to safeguard them, the Director-General sent, in 2003, a high-level expert mission to Kosovo and Belgrade. Donors have already contacted the Organization to finance a certain number of urgent operations recommended in the mission’s report, which will be made public shortly.

Source Press Release No 2004 - 27

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