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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Information meeting about the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem (UNESCO, 19 March 2007)

Following the publication of the Report of the technical mission of experts that went to the Old City of Jerusalem between 27 February and 2 March 2007 (see Flash Info no 36 and 40), Mr. Matsuura organized, on 19 March 2007, a meeting with Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates to UNESCO.

This meeting took place in the presence of Mr. Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan, President of the General Conference, Mr. Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, Vice-President of the World Heritage Committee, Mrs. Françoise Rivière, Assistant Director-General for Culture, and three of the members of the mission: Mr. Francesco Bandarin, Director of the World Heritage Centre, M. Mounir Bouchenaki, Director-General of the ICCROM, and Mrs. Véronique Dauge from the World Heritage Centre.

In his address, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura first recalled that the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls was inscribed, under the World Heritage Convention of 1972, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1981 upon the request from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was subsequently inscribed on the World Heritage in Danger List in 1982, due to the serious dangers that threatened its preservation and the political situation prevailing on the ground. “This double inscription obliges us to be all the more vigilant, and I know that this is the reason why we are so mobilized today,” declared Mr. Matsuura. “If this question takes on a distinctive importance, it is indeed a sign that many issues are at stake,” he added.

The Director-General particularly insisted on the fact that the common wish to preserve a heritage site renowned by the international community for its ‘exceptional universal value,‘ according to the terms of the Convention of 1972, “can make it possible to reconnect the line of dialogue interrupted in other forums”. “UNESCO is the place where cultural dimension can override political dimension, even though political constraints cannot be ignored. UNESCO is the place where, on the basis of common values and a shared vision of our responsibilities with regards to the future generations, the dialogue among cultures, civilisations, and religions is entirely at the service of peace,” he stated.

Mr. Matsuura wished that a “major reflection, far from all controversy, on this responsibility to maintain a place for dialogue and peace” be carried out by UNESCO. “We have thus the duty to tackle this question while being fully conscious of its stakes in order to show that our will to protect all cultural heritages, especially those in danger –wherever they are and whatever the circumstances – is an integral part of out mandate.”

“At a time where the United Nations system is at a turning point of its history, and must show its utility and its pertinence; at a time where UNESCO, as a specialized agency of this system, must bring to light its added value and its comparative advantage in this system; and finally, at a time where culture rejoins the “major league,” and is no longer considered as an annexed and futile dimension of the true stakes of peace, dialogue and development; we are not entitled to failure,” declared the Director-General after having presented the five recommendations of the mission report.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 042-2007
  • 20-03-2007
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