UNESCO Director-General pays first official visit to Scotland

UNESCO Director-General pays first official visit to Scotland
  • © UNESCO

From 18 to 20 August 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, made his first official visit to Scotland, visiting Edinburgh, New Lanark and Glasgow.

On the Director-General’s arrival on the evening of 18 August, Ms Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture in the Scottish Government, hosted a dinner in his honour. This provided an opportunity for Mr Matsuura to discuss with important Scottish personalities how UNESCO could strengthen cooperation with Scotland, within the framework of its cooperation with the United Kingdom (UK).

Among the many cultural highlights of his visit to Edinburgh on Tuesday 19 August, the Director-General toured the town, exploring the striking mixture of old and new sites that had led to Edinburgh’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. Mr Matsuura visited the Bruntsfield Links, where the first recorded game of golf had taken place. He also had the pleasure of visiting several fringe venues, and attended a performance by Scottish Dance Theatre.

In 2004, Edinburgh was the first city to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature, and during his trip the Director-General met with several officials involved in managing the programme. Mr Matsuura also visited Napier University to launch a report on Scotland’s intangible cultural heritage, together with the University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Joan Stringer. The Director-General welcomed the report, the first step in an ambitious project to draw up an inventory of Scotland’s living heritage, as an example of the UK’s growing interest in intangible heritage. He emphasized the importance of efforts to safeguard intangible heritage, which he said can “help communities grapple with the challenges of globalization, not only by preserving the value and practices that define their way of life, but also in promoting respect for other cultural traditions and practices”. In this context, Mr Matsuura urged the UK to ratify the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which he said would “enable the country to join other states parties in international efforts to preserve the world’s living heritage, and also give the UK’s intangible heritage the global recognition it so richly deserves”. On 19 August The Scotsman newspaper published an article by the Director-General arguing the reasons why the UK should sign up.

While in Edinburgh, Mr Matsuura visited the Royal Society of Edinburgh, where he had the opportunity to discuss with Dr David Edward and other senior fellows issues of common interest, from the promotion of North-South cooperation in scientific research to ways of reaching out to young people and engaging their interest in learning, in particular in the natural sciences and modern languages. The Director-General was also invited to attend a civic reception held in his honour by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Mr George Grubb, at the Edinburgh City Council.

On Wednesday 20 August, the Director-General travelled to the UNESCO World Heritage site of New Lanark, speaking with managers about the restoration and ongoing development of the village. Mr Matsuura was also greeted by Antonine Guards of Honour, who were celebrating the recent inclusion of the Antonine Wall as part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage site.

While in New Lanark, the Director-General met members of the Scottish Committee of the UK National Commission for UNESCO to receive an update on the Committee’s work. Several projects were discussed, from efforts to establish the first UNESCO Chairs in Scotland, to action to promote sustainable tourism, improved freshwater management and the preservation of cultural diversity including both tangible and intangible heritage.

The Director-General’s visit concluded with a trip to Glasgow, where Mr Matsuura announced his decision to appoint Glasgow as a UNESCO City of Music, making it the 12th city to join UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Among those present at the announcement were Minister Fabiani, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Mr Robert Winter, and Baroness Meta Ramsay of Cartvale. The Director-General congratulated Glasgow on its impressive application, paying tribute to the city’s commitment to putting music and creative industries at the heart of its civic life.

The Director-General was accompanied throughout his visit by Professor Alec Boksenberg, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, and Ms Joanne Orr, Chair of the Scotland Committee of the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 103-2008
  • 21-08-2008
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