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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

UNESCO Director-General opens 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in Quebec City

On 2 July 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, opened the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in Quebec City. His visit coincided with celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the City.

The Director-General addressed the opening ceremony of the Committee alongside several dignitaries, including: Mr Jean Charest, Prime Minister of Quebec; Mr John Baird, Federal Minister of the Environment; Mr George N. Anastassopoulos, Permanent Delegate of Greece to UNESCO and President of the General Conference; Mr Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï, Permanent Delegate of Benin to UNESCO and Chairman of the Executive Board; UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Her Royal Highness Princess Firyal of Jordan; Mr Régis Labeaume, Mayor of Quebec City; Ms Christina Cameron, Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee; and Mr David Walden, Secretary-General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis of the Huron-Wendat Nation of Quebec performed a purification ceremony, and several youth delegates also expressed their hopes and expectations for the meeting. Mr Michel Audy, Executive Secretary of Historical Sites and Monuments, Parks Canada, acted as Master of Ceremonies

In his opening remarks, Mr Matsuura congratulated Prime Minister Charest for the many activities organized to mark the anniversary of Quebec City, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and is one of 14 sites currently inscribed on the prestigious World Heritage List. The Director-General also recalled with pleasure the progress in cooperation between UNESCO and Quebec in recent years, in particular since his official visit to Montreal in 2006.

Turning to the important subjects under discussion at the World Heritage Committee meeting, Mr Matsuura concentrated on two key issues. The first was the state of properties at high risk, now covered by the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism: the Mughrabi ascent in the Old City of Jerusalem; the Dresden Elbe Valley; and the five World Heritage Properties in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Director-General expressed his hope that the Committee would follow these cases with the greatest attention, in a spirit of dialogue and consensus.

Mr Matsuura also drew attention to his concerted efforts to respond to the recommendations of the audit on the management of the World Heritage Centre. He explained how he had restructured the Centre around two main pillars, Programme and Management, as well as his plans to introduce an innovative funding mechanism to create seven posts covering core functions. With respect to the latter, Mr Matsuura expressed his hope that the Committee would support his proposals, so that he could formally present them to UNESCO’s Executive Board at its next session. The Director-General also clearly articulated responsibilities with respect to cultural tourism activities, which engage not only the Centre but the whole culture sector.

In conclusion, the Director-General expressed his high expectations for the 32nd Committee session, saying he hoped it “would mark the beginning of a new stage in the reinforced implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention”.

During his visit to Quebec City, Mr Matsuura met with several top-level officials from the Government of Quebec, including: the Prime Minister, Mr Jean Charest; the Minister of International Relations and Minister Responsible for the Francophonie, Ms Monique Gagnon-Tremblay; and the Minister of Culture and Communications and the Status of Women, Ms Christine Saint-Pierre. Their discussions focused on the growing cooperation between UNESCO and Quebec, in particular with respect to safeguarding natural and cultural heritage and promoting cultural diversity. The Prime Minister stated that “Quebec shared with the UNESCO the desire to preserve what was most important to humanity, language and culture”.

The Director-General also met with the Federal Minister of the Environment, Mr John Baird. The latter likewise underscored the importance of preserving cultural and biological diversity, notably as a means to address global climate change. The Minister further paid tribute to Mr Matsuura’s internal reform agenda, congratulating him on the progress made in strengthening accountability and oversight. “UNESCO provides an example that other UN agencies should follow”, he said.

While in Quebec, Mr Matsuura visited the Museum of Civilization, where he toured two exhibitions – DRAGONE’S Visionaries Garden and Gold in the Americas – with the Director of the Museum, Ms Claire Simard.

Throughout his trip, the Director-General was accompanied by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Her Royal Highness Princess Firyal of Jordan, as well as the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO, Mr Gilbert Laurin, and the Quebec representative to UNESCO within the Canadian Permanent Delegation, Mr Michel Audet.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 088-2008
  • 04-07-2008
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