Ms Sally Mansfield, Permanent Delegate of Australia to UNESCO was also present together with a delegation of high officials.
The Director-General welcomed Ms Bryce recalling the “historic significance” of her appointment as Australia’s first female head of state this past April. He paid tribute to the active support of the Australian Government for the promotion of UNESCO’s objectives, particularly in the fields of education and cultural heritage.
Mr Matsuura commended Australia for its contribution in the implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, recalling that the country has several cultural and natural sites inscribed on the List. The Director-General indicated that the 1972 Convention, although more famous, is only one among the seven UNESCO normative instruments in the field of culture. “The emphasis now needs to be on implementation,” he stated.
The Director-General and the Governor-General discussed at length the critical significance of intangible heritage for societal wellbeing and identity, traversing numerous examples of their own observation and experience of oral traditions that need preservation. They exchanged views on the challenges of safeguarding multilingualism today, expressing concern at the rate in which languages are disappearing, particularly in the small island States of the Asia-Pacific region.
Highlighting the celebration of the UN International Year of Languages in 2008, to which UNESCO is lead Agency, the Director-General explained UNESCO’s actions to help preserve endangered languages, notably through the 2003 UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Underlining the 2003 Convention, Mr Matsuura made reference to the third session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage that had just taken place in Istanbul in the beginning of November (Flash Info N°155-2008*). “[This session] established the Representative List containing 90 cultural elements that were proclaimed Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, 26 of which are located in the Asia Pacific Region.”
In conclusion, the Director-General announced his acceptance for Australia’s proposal to host the celebration of World Press Freedom Day in May 2010. He welcomed the proposed theme “Freedom of Information: The Right to know”, and underscored the importance of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize that is awarded every year on that day. Mr Matsuura also expressed his appreciation for the intention of the Australian hosts to initiate a regional planning process that would ensure the participation of a large number of small countries in Asia and the Pacific in the event.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 160-2008 - Publication Date: 13-11-2008