16.02.2012 - ODG

Japan Voices Gratitude and Support to UNESCO

© UNESCO/Cynthia GuttmanUNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova met with Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Koichiro Gemba during her visit to Japan, 16 February 2012.

Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Koichiro Gemba expressed gratitude to the Director-General for visiting the region hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and for presenting the World Heritage site certificate to Hiraizumi.

This gratitude was echoed by Mr Hirofumi Hirano, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Senior Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Mr Ken Okuda, during meetings with the Director-General in Tokyo on 16 February 2012.

“We were very pleased that you have visited Tohoku region, including a school and the Hiraizumi temples, and for the encouragement you offered,” said Minister Hirano. “We look forward to continued relations. We wish to contribute to UNESCO’s activities as much as possible within our capacity and we will continue to provide you with support.”

Noting that Japan is a country prone to different kinds of natural disasters, Senior Vice-Minister Okuda expressed his “hopes that our experiences and partnership with UNESCO will be fully utilized for the betterment of the international community.”

The Director-General discussed UNESCO’s wide-ranging cooperation with senior officials, from upgrading flood forecasting in Pakistan and combating drought and famine in the Horn of Africa to promoting education for sustainable development and protecting cultural heritage.

Ms Bokova elaborated on cultural cooperation during an address to the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage. Specialists from this Consortium have participated in long-term projects funded by the UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation of World Cultural Heritage in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq, among others. Ms Bokova stressed that “heritage is a source of pride, a force for recovery…. Incorporating culture must be the new frontier of development policies.”

She also welcomed the engagement of Panasonic in protecting heritage and biodiversity, during a meeting with its President Mr Fumio Ohtsubo, expressing enthusiasm for UNESCO’s cooperation with the company.

Throughout her visit, the Director-General expressed admiration for the unity, resilience and determination of the Japanese people to move forward in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, pledging UNESCO’s moral solidarity and support.

“Japan has lived through an event on an extraordinary scale. It has demonstrated a resilience that is equally extraordinary. This draws on the values of solidarity and civic responsibility that are deeply embedded in Japanese society,” Ms Bokova said in an address to the National Commission of Japan for UNESCO.

The country’s strong respect for its traditions and intangible heritage was strongly noted by the Director-General.  One of these traditions – the tea ceremony – is embodied by Sen Genshitsu, whom Ms Bokova invited to become a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.  “I have travelled the world promoting peacefulness through a bowl of tea and have been in touch with many different traditions. I know how much these mean to people,” said Mr Genshitsu, the first son of the14th generation of Urasenke, one of Japan’s main tea ceremony schools.

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