The Director-General and the Bulgarian Minister of Culture advocate for strengthening regional cooperation in South East Europe
This was the core message of the 8th Conference of Ministers of Culture of South East Europe - bringing together 13 countries in the region – which focused on "Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development" within the framework of the UNESCO global initiative "Culture: a Bridge to Development," and at the invitation of the Minister of Culture of Bulgaria. This was a powerful opportunity for the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova together with Bulgarian Minister of Culture, Vezhdi Rashidov, to call for ever stronger regional cooperation.
Participating Ministers and Representatives of cultural institutions presented their policies and measures to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage in their countries, and to enhance this heritage as a driver for regional cooperation, intercultural dialogue and sustainable development.
Discussions focused on successful capacity-building efforts and on strengthening knowledge exchange and good practices, as well as increased transnational efforts for the safeguarding of shared heritage amongst the participating countries.
The Minister of culture of Armenia Ms. Hasmik Poghosyan, and the Ambassador of the European Union in Bulgaria, Ms. Zinaida Zlatanova, also attended the Conference as observers.
The Ministerial Conference followed the international experts' working group, consisting of representatives of Ministries of Culture, and proposed to establish a new unified ministerial platform on culture and development in South-Eastern Europe, in cooperation with UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the European Union, and with the goal to advance common objectives and create synergies amongst the various existing ministerial cooperation mechanisms.
On the occasion of her visit to Bulgaria, Irina Bokova also held a number of bilateral meetings with the Ministers of Culture of Serbia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Armenia.
Mr. Bratislav Petkovic, Minister of culture of Serbia, and the Director-General underscored the critical role culture plays for social and economic development in the region. They also discussed the importance of promoting transnational cooperation on Word Heritage, building on the imperative of regional cooperation to face the current challenges of globalization.
Irina Bokova congratulated the Minister for the recent appointment of Mr. Vuk Jeremic, as President of the UN General Assembly, and for the support expressed by the latter in advancing the integration of culture in the global post-2015 development agenda.
Ms. Elisabeta Kanceska Mileska, Minister of Culture of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, invited the Director-General, to the next Summit of the Heads of States of South-Eastern Europe in Ohrid on 1-2 June 2013, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the first Summit. She also asked Irina Bokova for UNESCO's support to the 2nd World Conference on Dialogue among civilizations on 10-13 May 2013.
The Minister commended the Director-General for the recent establishment of the UNESCO Chair for Media at the University of Skopje, which will address issues such as the ethics of the media, intercultural dialogue, and also provide impetus to the young leaders' forum.
During the bilateral meeting between Irina Bokova and Ms. Hasmik Poghosyan, Minister of culture of Armenia, the Minister emphasized the growing importance of intangible cultural heritage and the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions in her country.
She highlighted also recent achievements in the implementation of cultural policies and measures, and the need to provide support to the development of cultural industries. In this context, Minister Poghosyan underscored the successful impact of the designation of Yerevan as the World Book Capital in 2012 and invited the Director-General to attend the closing celebration on 10-11 December coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the first Armenian printed book in the country.