|Date||31 October 2003|
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Agenda item 42
Follow-up to the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage
Report of the Secretary-General (A/58/402)
Draft resolution (A/58/L.11)
In accordance with General Assembly resolution 57/158 of 16 December 2002, I call on Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to address and present an overview of the activities undertaken during the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage.
I wish to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this Assembly to take stock of the follow-up to the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. The opportunity offered to me today, which I think is the first in the history of our two institutions, will in fact go far beyond a simple briefing exercise.
On 21 November 2001, in this same Hall, the Assembly decided that 2002 should be devoted to celebrating cultural heritage. I warmly thank the initiator, Egypt, and all other countries that firmly supported the principle. The objective of that celebration was to make public authorities and the international community aware of the broadened concept of cultural heritage and of what is really at stake in that concept, which goes far beyond a focus on monuments, an approach to which that concept is often reduced. I think that we have succeeded in that.
Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize Laureate in literature and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, recently stated,
"The tendency to eradicate all vestiges of the humanity of others is crucial to the project of domination or diminution of status of others. At the heart of it lies intolerance, which is as much a child of ignorance as it is of fear of external knowledge, which frequently encompasses a suspicion that such knowledge may question one's own given".
What is cultural heritage? It is an open-ended notion that bears witness to the universality of human genius in its creation. It encompasses not only the many cultural remains, but also living culture and its countless examples, be it cultural landscapes, the fruit of interaction between human beings and their natural environment or even the new category called "intangible heritage". Belonging to that category are systems of knowledge in which human beings inscribe their creations, such as the performing arts, rituals, festive events, as well as their means of transmission such as social practices, traditional knowledge and oral traditions.
This broadened concept of cultural heritage reminds us that we can grasp cultural expression only as a whole. Tangible expressions of culture can be appreciated only in relation to other tangible expressions and by understanding their interactions with their tangible, intangible, natural and human environment. That was the first objective of the Year: to promote understanding and acceptance of a broadened notion of cultural heritage in order to appreciate its dynamic, global and evolving nature and to be aware of the need to care for all its manifestations.
UNESCO has striven to provide the international community with legal instruments that address that multiplicity. With respect to tangible cultural heritage and immovable heritage, the success of the 1972 Convention for the Protection of World Natural and Cultural Heritage is unprecedented. It has been ratified by 176 States, making it one of the world's most universally ratified conventions. The Convention brought about an evolution in the concept of heritage, in particular by integrating the notion of cultural landscape and sacred natural sites. However, it did not completely fill the lacuna on the protection of intangible cultural heritage. That is why it is of great satisfaction to me to see the member States of UNESCO call for the adoption this year of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, demonstrating their awareness of the importance and urgency of preserving one of the most vulnerable and most fundamental aspects of cultural heritage. I hope that many States will rapidly ratify this new Convention and all conventions comprising the overall mechanism for protecting cultural heritage.
In the same spirit, I welcome the recent adoption of the UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage, which States requested UNESCO to draft following the deliberate destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. In fact, the Hague Convention of 1954 applies only to the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. It was therefore urgent to create an instrument to provide a moral and ethical reference point for the protection of cultural heritage in peacetime.
We can never overemphasize the importance of relentlessly fighting the illicit traffic in cultural property and the need for international cooperation in the form of the broad ratification of the 1970 UNESCO Convention against illicit traffic in cultural property and assistance in returning cultural property to its country of origin.
As a meeting place, heritage possesses the primary characteristic of diversity. That was the second objective of the Year: to create awareness of the broadened concept of heritage in all its rich diversity. As a result of its diversity of expression and diversity of influences and origins, it is a symbol of the cultural identity of peoples and communities and, at the same time, testimony of the collective memory of humanity and the conditions for humanity's future. That was the key message of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, unanimously adopted in November 2001, which recalls that all efforts for development must be based on diversity.
There can be no development without participation, local empowerment and inclusion. Culture alone can encourage such participation. In order to involve local populations in determining their own requirements and development projects, we must recognize the diversity of approaches, choices and values that underpin development projects. In short, we must accept cultural diversity in the design of future societies. Culture cannot in any event be considered an option for possible inclusion in the material objectives of development. Only human capital, which is nourished and reinvigorated through cultural heritage, provides the basis for building and developing the societies of tomorrow. That is the key argument for the indivisibility of culture and development, which constitute a foundation of solidarity for the advancement of democracy and equality throughout the world. In that spirit, UNESCO's member States have just given us a mandate to prepare an international convention on the diversity of cultural content and artistic expression. In brief, culture cannot wait because it is central to any process for progress in the service of humanity.
Finally, the third purpose of the Year was to show how essential cultural heritage is to creating lasting peace. If the misappropriation of cultural property for the purpose of exclusion are so shocking to us today, it is undoubtedly because we have all realized its usefulness for social cohesion and for bringing whole cultural communities together.
I referred earlier to the Bamiyan Buddhas. I wish to recall the visit to UNESCO by President Karzai a few months after he assumed office in Afghanistan in the spring of 2002. In that meeting, he underlined that culture, alongside education, should constitute a pillar for the reconstruction of his country, thus demonstrating his deep understanding of the potential for social cohesion offered by cultural heritage and of the essential function it has for people, making it as elementary as health and nutrition needs.
Last week in Madrid, at the donors meeting for the reconstruction of Iraq, when the international community was gathered to organize international solidarity and demonstrate its commitment of responsibility to the future of Iraq, culture was placed alongside health and infrastructure on the list of priorities for development assistance. That echoed the vibrant plea made by Iraqi authorities in that connection.
UNESCO is intervening more and more often in post-conflict situations, such as in Cambodia, South-Eastern Europe and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, in order to enable populations devastated by conflict to recover their common cultural identity and lay the foundation for rapprochement and reconciliation, which is indispensable for building a common future.
These objectives of the Year are based on the acceptance by all of an ethic of responsibility towards our cultural heritage. Acting together to preserve the heritage of cultural diversity in its past, present and future forms and for the sake of the dialogue it enables is, in effect, an individual and community responsibility. Each one of us, each citizen of the world, inherits his or her share of the common heritage and the right to enjoy it, along with the complementary and indissociable duty to understand and to transmit it.
That is why UNESCO so strongly insists on the need for genuine heritage education that will allow all generations, and young people in particular, to understand what is truly at stake and thereby to become the active and committed defenders of cultural heritage. That is why UNESCO also insists so strongly on the need for States to ratify international instruments designed to protect cultural heritage in its universality and to adopt national regulations to protect and safeguard their historic heritage and to encourage the growth of living cultures. It is in that way that international cooperation can assume its true meaning by forming a single global network and becoming a shared responsibility for a common heritage.
I call on the representative of Egypt to introduce draft resolution A/58/L.11.
We thank the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his statement on UNESCO's activities during the course of the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage last year.
I also thank UNESCO for all its efforts over the past decades to protect and preserve cultural humanitarian heritage. According to its statutes, it is entrusted with protecting, maintaining and strengthening the common heritage of mankind. Egypt still remembers with appreciation UNESCO's work in the 1960s to save the ruins in the Nile river basin in Nubia, southern Egypt. Such work represents not merely the storehouse of humankind's heritage, but also a future gift and a link in an interrupted chain of past cultural experiences -- some successful, some less so -- leading to today's progress and advancement. Protecting cultural heritage, however, entails not only its classification, registration and preservation in museums or on site, but also learning its eternal lessons to be transmitted to future generations, allowing humanity to march ever onward.
I should like to quote a saying that, I believe, is common to many cultures, regardless of the language they speak: "People remain alive so long as their own culture remains alive." When life is difficult and vicious or confused, when political conflicts arise out of cultural and civilizational diversity, we must return to our sources and make a clear distinction between politics and civilization. We must look within our cultural heritage to find our common roots and to move us beyond our conflicts and disputes. Every people, culture and civilization is bound by the task of further asserting the principle of the common origin and destiny of all peoples of the world.
Many countries, including Egypt, took a step in that direction by proclaiming 2002 the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. More than 40 countries from all the continents of the world, representing a broad range of cultures and civilizations, were involved. That demonstrates the self-evident nobility of the message and the purpose that have united representatives of those civilizations and cultures of every stamp towards the noble objective of preserving the common cultural heritage of mankind.
I have the pleasure of introducing to the General Assembly a draft resolution in document A/58/L.11, drafted by the Egyptian delegation under the agenda item on the follow-up to the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. It has been prepared along lines similar to resolution 57/158. There are some minor differences, however. The operative paragraph 5, for example, refers to the resolution I have just mentioned. We have also added operative paragraph 1, in which the General Assembly takes note of the UNESCO activities undertaken during the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage.
On behalf of the Egyptian delegation, I welcome the United States of America back to UNESCO.
The sponsors of the draft resolution are Belarus, Canada, China, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Thailand and Ukraine.
At the outset, I wish to thank the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his statement.
As an important embodiment of civilization and a historical witness of human development, cultural heritage reflects the arduous process of mankind's development and transformation of nature. It also demonstrates the brilliant wisdom and hard work of mankind in creating and developing civilization. It constitutes an invaluable wealth passed down by our ancestors. The adequate preservation and utilization of cultural heritage are a shared responsibility of the peoples of the world and play a significant role in deepening mutual understanding among nations and increasing exchanges among different cultures and civilizations.
We were pleased when the General Assembly, in resolution 56/8, proclaimed 2002 the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. It was a highly important and timely resolution and undoubtedly serves as a great support and encouragement for the international community in preserving cultural heritage. We are pleased to note that Member States have come a long way in their unremitting efforts to preserve the world's cultural and natural heritage. We commend and appreciate the irreplaceable role played by UNESCO in that endeavour. I should also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude once again to the mission of Egypt for taking the initiative two years ago.
China supports the International Convention on the Preservation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage adopted recently by UNESCO's General Conference at its thirty-second session. Intangible cultural heritage is just as much a reflection of a nation's pride in its history and cultural identity as tangible cultural heritage. The acknowledgement and preservation of intangible cultural heritage are equally important tokens of the diversity of civilizations and social progress. We appeal to the international community to take immediate action, take stock of the existing intangible cultural heritage in all countries and regions, and make a list of all those projects designed to urgently salvage heritage with salient cultural features so as to fill the gap in the preservation of intangible cultural heritage throughout the world.
China has always supported and actively participated in international cooperation in the preservation of the world's cultural and natural heritage. Since China ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1985, we have achieved globally-recognized results in our intensified efforts to raise our people's awareness of the importance of preserving cultural heritage. Twenty-nine of China's cultural and natural heritage sites have been incorporated into the World Heritage List. In July next year, the twenty-eighth session of the World Cultural Heritage Conference will be held in Suzhou, a well-known and beautiful city of China. A Chinese saying describes the beauty of Suzhou like this: "There is paradise in heaven, there is Suzhou on Earth." It is most appropriate and beneficial for Suzhou to host such a Conference. It will serve to reinforce the efforts of the international community to preserve world cultural heritage. The Conference will also prepare a long-range plan for the preservation of world heritage in the twenty-first century. The Chinese Government stands ready to work with all sides to make the Conference a success and to make new contributions to the preservation of world heritage.
The United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage was a celebration of our collective cultural and natural inheritance, of our global treasures and gifts. The celebration of that heritage did not end one year ago when the General Assembly officially brought the Year to a close.
Cultural heritage is part of what defines us and it is our gift to generations to come. Cultural heritage is global; it is owned by everyone. Similarly, protecting our cultural heritage is the responsibility of everyone at the local, national, regional and global levels.
Mount Tongariro, in the North Island of New Zealand, together with its surrounding land, became New Zealand's first national park well over 100 years ago after having been gifted to the Government of New Zealand by Te Heuheu Tukino IV the then paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa in 1887. It was the first of three New Zealand sites to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. Tongariro National Park is on the List as both a natural and cultural site, owing to its largely unspoiled natural landscape and strong indigenous cultural association. New Zealanders care deeply for Tongariro and are pleased to share it through the World Heritage Convention as part of the international community's collective cultural heritage.
New Zealand is committed to protecting not only our own natural and cultural heritage, but also that of our Pacific Island neighbours. The oceans and lands of the South Pacific cover almost one third of the Earth's surface. It is a region rich in cultural heritage, of which those of us from that part of the world are naturally very proud. This is a key reason why New Zealand decided to run for a seat on the World Heritage Committee and was successfully elected by member States at the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization earlier this month. Serving on the Committee is an opportunity for New Zealand and the wider community of Pacific Island nations to have their voices heard.
The New Zealand delegation to the World Heritage Committee -- led by Paramount Chief Tumu Te Heuheu, descendent of Te Heuheu Tukino IV -- will work to represent our home region, including all that it offers to the world's common cultural heritage. Tumu te Heuheu will work to develop a World Heritage programme for the region and we will be able to assist the nomination of World Heritage sites in Pacific Island countries. A number of ancient and historic sites in the region need sound management to ensure that they can continue to be enjoyed sustainably by those of our own neighbourhood and for coming generations. The programme would also maintain and preserve the sites for the global community to visit.
Finally, New Zealand is acutely conscious of the responsibilities that holding a seat on the World Heritage Committee brings with it. The Committee's objective of protecting the world's outstanding and precious monuments and heritage sites is as challenging as it is important. It involves action, including through ratification of the World Heritage Convention. By doing so, we can ensure that the objectives of the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage are upheld.
The United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage, 2002, served to increase public awareness and to foster respect for the cultural heritage of humanity. In making the decision to observe the Year, we reaffirmed that we should all share in the responsibility for protecting that heritage. In the course of this year, we have continued to recognize the significant role cultural heritage plays not only in providing us with opportunities to appreciate different cultural traditions, but also in enhancing people's attachment to their own national identities and in giving them -- especially those living in post-conflict situations -- spiritual confidence.
Having said that, I would like to share several issues to which my Government attaches importance. First, it is noteworthy that the cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley and Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat), respectively in Afghanistan and Iraq, both in the process of post-conflict reconstruction, were simultaneously inscribed on both the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger during the twenty-seventh session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee, held in Paris this past July. We are encouraged by this news and hope that it will have a good effect on the peace-building efforts taking place in both countries and focus international attention on their situations.
With regard to the Bamiyan Valley, the Government of Japan decided to contribute approximately $1.8 million through the UNESCO Trust Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to help fund a project there. It will have three components: formulating a preliminary master plan for the preservation of the whole Valley; preserving the existing mural paintings in the caves; and consolidating the cliffs and niches of the rock wall where the destroyed Buddha used to be. Beginning this summer, a team of Japanese experts has twice been dispatched to the Bamiyan Valley to conduct the project, in cooperation with experts from other countries.
In Iraq, my Government has been concerned about the looting and destruction of that nation's cultural heritage and sought to take immediate action. Accordingly, Japan contributed $1 million to the UNESCO cultural heritage Trust Fund to finance projects that will rebuild the laboratory for the restoration of cultural properties of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, which was badly damaged when the Museum was looted. The Government of Japan pays tribute to UNESCO, under the leadership of Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, for its quick response and the appeals it issued for assistance. Japan was honoured to join UNESCO in hosting the third meeting on the safeguarding of the Iraqi cultural heritage in Tokyo in August. We sincerely hope that the international efforts devoted to the protection of Iraqi cultural properties will be rewarded.
Let me also touch upon Cambodia as an instance in which the protection and rehabilitation of cultural heritage has played an important role in post-conflict reconstruction. Angkor, a symbol of national unity in Cambodia and a focal point of international cooperation for the restoration and preservation of historical monuments, has also become an important foothold for the social and economic development of Cambodia. We are happy to hear that the Government of France decided to host a meeting in Paris in November in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor, which Japan hosted in Tokyo in 1993. My Government welcomes the French initiative and stands ready to cooperate, as a co-chair of the meeting, in reviewing the process of safeguarding Angkor and discussing further efforts to be made.
The Government of Japan welcomes the adoption of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by the General Conference of UNESCO at its thirty-second session this month. I believe that the adoption of the Convention is the result of dedicated international efforts to preserve the world's intangible cultural heritage, which is often at risk of disappearing because of such unavoidable developments as industrialization and urbanization, but which should be regarded as the common asset of humankind. Japan adopted national legislation for the preservation of its own cultural heritage as early as 1950 and actively participated in the negotiations on the Convention. Furthermore, Japan has been financially supporting the efforts of UNESCO to preserve and promote the world's intangible cultural heritage, and I would like in this context to mention the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, which will be announced on 7 November in Paris. We are particularly pleased by the adoption of the Convention and hope it will help to promote the creativity of each culture as well as understanding among different cultures and civilizations.
Allow me to note here that Japan was elected as a member of the World Heritage Committee at the elections held at the fourteenth General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention in Paris on 15 October. I would like to conclude my statement by reiterating the determination of the Government of Japan to redouble its efforts to contribute to the protection and conservation of the cultural heritage of humankind, and in so doing to follow up on the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage.
We in India thank the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the overview he has provided on activities undertaken during the past two years to protect cultural heritage. The proclamation of 2002 as the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage attests to the importance which the international community has attached to this matter. There is, in our view, a continuing need to give priority to programmes, activities and projects for the protection of cultural heritage.
It has been said that cultural heritage represents the historical record and understanding of the entire spirit of a people in terms of its values, actions, works, institutions, monuments and sites. The record of our history shows that India has always been a meeting place of different cultures. The Indic civilization is a result of several cultural fusions. It encompasses the philosophic tenets of both idealism and materialism, of religion and secularism, of the quest for its own identity and a search for integrative globalization. Pluralism, tolerance and respect for all religious, linguistic and cultural manifestations define our values. The spirit of our people and their faith in the fundamental unity of all mankind is encapsulated in the Sanskrit phrase "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", which means "the world is one family".
We share much of this cultural heritage with rest of the world. The values of liberal and participative democracy and of the rule of law belong to all of us. The commonality in our values has allowed for the codification of international instruments on human rights. To protect our cultural heritage is to also protect our common values. We need to do so particularly from the threat posed by those who seek to impose political ideology by murdering and terrorizing innocent civilians. The forces of terrorism deny the existence of a common thread of humanity and seek to destroy the cultural heritage of peaceful coexistence.
The preservation of our values also requires the preservation of the tangible forms of our cultural heritage. We are proud in India to be the inheritors of monuments and sites that attest to the achievements of our forefathers since the early dawn of civilization. There were, until last year, 23 Indian sites on the World Heritage List. We are happy that, four months ago, another Indian site, the rock shelters of Bhimbetka, was added to this list. These five clusters of natural rock shelters display paintings that date from the mesolithic period right through to the historical period. We are committed to the preservation of these expressions of our cultural heritage and continue to take new initiatives.
In February this year, Prime Minister Vajpayee launched the National Mission for Manuscripts. It is estimated that there are over 50 million manuscripts in India. The objective of the Mission is to document and catalogue Indian manuscripts, to facilitate their conservation and preservation and to promote ready access to them through publication, both in book and electronic form. We also plan to build a national manuscripts library.
A key reason for discussing tangible cultural heritage in a multilateral setting is the need for international cooperation to assist in efforts for its preservation. To value our common humanity is to value also the various tangible expressions of cultural achievement that exist in different parts of the world. This value is expressed through a willingness to assist developing countries to build their own capacities for safeguarding their cultural heritage.
We are happy to have been able to share our know-how on conservation and preservation with others. We are proud of India's role in the restoration of Angkor Wat. During the visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to Cambodia last April, we also agreed to participate in the restoration of Ta Prom, another magnificent temple complex in the Angkor Park area. Through this participation, we recognize our common South Asian and South-East Asian cultural heritage.
We also believe that multilateral cooperation is necessary to preserve the expression of cultural heritage that is found in traditional knowledge. A seminar on the protection of traditional knowledge was held in New Delhi last year. The conclusions of the seminar underline the need to develop an internationally agreed instrument that recognizes the protection of traditional knowledge at the national level to prevent misappropriation and to ensure that national-level benefit-sharing mechanisms and laws are respected worldwide. The conventional forms of intellectual property rights are, in our view, inadequate and need to be developed further if we are to provide protection to those manifestations of cultural heritage. We have, along with some other developing countries, made a submission in this regard to the World Trade Organization Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
The consideration by the General Assembly of issues that fall within the mandates of specialized agencies and other multilateral organizations is useful. It allows us, without getting into details, to come to a common and holistic understanding of the various aspects of such issues. This debate has also allowed us to recognize the important role that UNESCO plays in the preservation of cultural heritage and we would like to use this opportunity to further encourage the agency in its efforts.
We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item.
I should like to inform representatives that, at the request of the sponsors, action on draft resolution A/58/L.11 has been postponed to a later date to be announced in the Journal.