United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General opens Iraqi Cultural Week and third meeting of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Cultural Heritage

Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, opened on 12 November the Iraqi Cultural Week in Paris, scheduled to take place at Paris Headquarters from 12 to 21 November 2007.

This event, organized by the UNESCO Culture Sector and the UNESCO Office for Iraq in Amman, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of Iraq, Ministry of State for Tourism and Antiquities, and with the financial support of the Society for International Cultural Exchange and the Japanese Funds-In-Trust, features a variety of activities intended to celebrate Iraqi culture. The launch of this cultural week was also marked by a traditional Iraqi Maqam performance, the country's leading classical music tradition, which was designated as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

In his opening address, given in presence of Mr Jaber Mohammad Abbas Al-Jaberi, Deputy Minister of Culture of Iraq, and of Mr Muhyi Alkateeb, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Iraq to UNESCO, Mr Matsuura highlighted “the crucial role of heritage and living arts and traditions in sustainable development”. “By hosting these exhibitions at UNESCO's Headquarters, we wish to express the Organization's support for Iraq's past and present artistic expressions, but, more broadly, to highlight human creativity as a powerful force that lives on, even in the darkest hours”, underlined the Director-General. “I express my sincere hope that Iraqi Cultural Week will succeed in raising awareness of the potential of Iraq's invaluable creativity to pave the way for dialogue, social cohesion and, ultimately, peace”, he concluded.

On 13 November, the Director-General also inaugurated the third meeting of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Cultural Heritage, one of the key events of the Iraqi cultural week. This Committee, established in 2004 as an advisory committee to UNESCO, provides advice on measures to improve and reinforce international cooperation for the safeguarding of the Iraq’s tangible and intangible heritage.

“This third meeting marks a crucial stage in our common efforts to protect Iraqi cultural heritage. All of us here are committed to furthering the ICC’s aims of coordinating international assistance for the safeguarding of Iraqi cultural heritage, as well as elaborating implementation plans that are in line with the most stringent international standards”, stated the Director-General.

Noting that since 2004 culture had been included for the first time as part of the United Nations comprehensive strategy for action in Iraq under the UNDG Trust Fund for Iraq, Mr Matsuura emphasized that UNESCO’s areas of priority action remained the prevention of illicit excavation and pillaging of cultural property, the fight against illicit trafficking, the training of art professionals, the protection of archaeological sites and the rehabilitation of historic buildings.

Mr Matsuura said that negotiations were still under way with potential donors to secure financial contributions for the second phase of the UNDG programme in the areas of capacity-building and training, as well as of national cultural and educational policies. “I therefore call on Member States to continue their financial efforts to enable the second phase of the UNDG programme for culture to be implemented”, he appealed in his concluding remarks.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 172-2007 -  Publication Date: 13-11-2007

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