Safeguarding intangible heritage at the top of the agenda as Director-General opens 2nd annual conference of UK National Commission for UNESCO in Cardiff

Safeguarding intangible heritage at the top of the agenda as Director-General opens 2nd annual conference of UK National Commission for UNESCO in Cardiff
  • © UNESCO

On 14 July, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, opened the second annual meeting of the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO in Cardiff.

In his speech the Director-General focused on UNESCO’s proactive engagement in UN reform efforts and the new medium-term strategy (34 C/4), which defines UNESCO’s core competencies and comparative advantages within the multilateral system.

Mr Matsuura laid particular emphasis on UNESCO’s work to promote cultural diversity, highlighting both the importance of integrating culture into development policies, and the need to recognize the multiple forms through which cultural diversity is expressed. The latter, Mr Matsuura explained, “extends beyond the built environment to encompass landscapes, movable objects, contemporary creativity, as well, of course, as our intangible heritage”.

The Director-General praised UNESCO Cymru-Wales for its efforts to promote the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage”. This Convention, Mr Matsuura stressed, “is a vital part of efforts to address the cultural challenges of globalization. It can help communities respond to the pressures globalization is placing on cultural diversity, especially in its local, indigenous and living forms. It also offers a response to the converse challenge of the increasing multiculturalism of today’s societies. Promoting respect for intangible heritage is one way in which societies can generate social harmony. It can signal a desire for mutual understanding, a way of engaging with cultural differences”.

Mr Matsuura also paid tribute to the achievements of the UK National Commission, and of the energetic leadership of its Chairperson, Professor Boksenberg. “Since its reconstitution, the UK National Commission has rapidly become one of the most dynamic and reliable partners of the Organization, helping to advance UNESCO’s ideals nationally, while also serving as a vital ally in promoting peace and sustainable development across the world”.

On the previous day, the Director-General had spoken with senior members of the UK National Commission for UNESCO on how to further strengthen such collaboration. He had also attended the Conference dinner, which was held at the National Museum of Wales in the presence of the Secretary of State for Wales, Mr Peter Hain, and the UK Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, who delivered a keynote speech.

During his two-day stay in Wales – Mr Matsuura’s first visit to the country – the Director-General met with several members of the Welsh Assembly Government, including the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development, Ms Jane Davidson, the Minister for Education, Culture and the Welsh Language, Mr Carwyn Jones, and the Minister for Budget and Business Management, Jane Hutt.

The Director-General also visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blaenevon, touring the old coal and iron ore mine along with other aspects of this striking industrial landscape. Bad weather unfortunately put paid to plans to visit the International Eistedfodd at Llangollen, which the Director-General described as “an excellent example of how different traditions can come together out of a shared respect for intangible heritage in ways that are immensely enriching”.

Prior to visiting Wales, Mr Matsuura passed through London to visit His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at Clarence House. Their conversation focused on the safeguarding of cultural heritage sites in many parts of the world and the major outcomes of the recent World Heritage Committee meeting in Christchurch, as well as the need for greater efforts to promote and protect the world’s intangible heritage. The latter, Mr Matsuura argued “is integral to the life of all societies, and the real mainspring of the world’s cultural diversity”.

While in London, the Director-General met with Mr Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of International Development (DFID), to discuss UN reform and UNESCO’s leadership in coordinating global efforts to achieve Education for All. Mr Matsuura also attended a working lunch at the Royal Society, hosted by the President, Lord Rees, where he spoke with Fellows about UNESCO’s strategic objectives in the sciences, and in particular the Organization’s work to help African countries strengthen capacity in science and technology.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 096-2007
  • 16-07-2007
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