Director-General welcomes first inscriptions to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding during official visit to United Arab Emirates

On Friday 2 October, 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, addressed Members of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, at their fourth session in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), under the chairmanship of Dr Awad Ali Saleh Al Musabi.

In extending his congratulations to the States Parties whose elements had been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as well as to the countries whose safeguarding practices had been inscribed on the register of good practices established under the Convention, he noted that “it has been an historic and emotional meeting.”

Recalling his determination to fill the gap in UNESCO’s standard setting activities in the field of culture on becoming Director-General in 1999, Mr Matsuura said, “As I prepare to leave UNESCO, I am, inevitably, reflecting on my ten years as Director-General. If asked to identify the most memorable moments, I would without hesitation say the birth and operationalization of the 2003 Convention ……[which] opened up a new phase in UNESCO’s work to safeguard the world’s cultural diversity, enlarging our normative action to encompass intangible as well as tangible heritage. Today, UNESCO has a comprehensive set of legal tools for protecting all aspects of humanity’s cultural diversity underpinned by the mutually reinforcing and complementary conventions of 1954; 1970; 1972, 2001; 2003 and 2005. The challenge for the coming years is to establish harmonious working relationships between all of them, in particular those of 1972, 2003 and 2005.”

While emphasizing the many causes for celebration in Abu Dhabi, including the inscription of 76 elements from 27 countries on the Representative List and 12 elements from 8 countries on the Urgent Safeguarding List, as well as the 116 ratifications of the Convention to date, Mr Matsuura made a frank assessment of areas requiring further attention and action. Foremost among these were: the imbalance between the two Lists, in spite of Member States having placed overriding importance of the Urgent List during the adoption of the Convention; and the imbalance within the Representative List, with 44% of the 166 inscribed elements coming from Asia and the Pacific. Another related issue was the sheer volume of nominations, which far exceeds the processing capacities of all parties concerned and on current trends looked set to exacerbate the List’s imbalance. The Director-General called on all States Parties to reflect on measures that would ensure the List was truly representative on a global scale.

Later, in a speech at the ceremonial closing of the Committee’s session, in the presence of the Chairperson of the Committee, the President of the General Assembly of States Parties to the 2003 Convention, the Chairman and Director-General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), and the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the United Arab Emirates to UNESCO, Mr Matsuura reiterated UNESCO’s gratitude for the UAE’s generous hospitality in hosting the session. He also paid tribute to its commitment to safeguarding diverse forms of heritage, in particular in the field of living cultural expressions all around the world, as demonstrated by the announcement by of a US$2 million donation in support of UNESCO’s work to safeguard intangible heritage in developing countries, particularly in Africa, as well as the establishment of the Al Ain Centre for Music in the World of Islam also announced by ADACH at the ceremony

Echoing the sentiments of his earlier speech, Mr Matsuura concluded his speech by underscoring his lifelong passion for intangible as well as tangible heritage. “What began as a concept has blossomed into a reality here in Abu Dhabi, after 10 years of relentless efforts. It is an accomplishment of which I am particularly proud…. Although I will be leaving UNESCO in a few weeks, you may be sure that I will continue to follow the development of the Convention. Before then, I want to appeal to all States Parties to do their utmost to keep it strong and credible.”

Mr Matsuura’s visit to Abu Dhabi was also the occasion for bilateral talks with Sheikh Nahyan Bin Moubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Mr Humaid Mohammed Obeid Al Qataami, Minister of Education. Both Ministers expressed their appreciation about UNESCO’s cooperation with the country in the field of education. The Director-General paid tribute to the active role the United Arab Emirates played at the regional and international levels, hosting a number of important meetings in UNESCO’s fields of competence.

Accompanied by Mr Mohammed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, Director-General of ADACH, Mr Matsuura made a short trip to Al Ain, a site on the country’s Tentative List of World Heritage sites. On this occasion, Sheikh Hamid Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the Crown Prince’s Court and Member of the Executive Board of Abu Dhabi, representing Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayyed Al Nahyan, President of the State’s Supreme Council, awarded Mr Matsuura The First Class Medal of United Arab Emirates Independence. The award was bestowed in recognition of Mr Matsuura’s tenure as Director-General of UNESCO. In handing over the award, the Sheikh paid particular tribute to Mr Matsuura’s efforts to promote intangible culture heritage, an area to which the United Arab Emirates attached high importance.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 176-2009
  • 05-10-2009
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