04.07.2017 - ODG

In Krakow, UNESCO Director General appeals for dialogue and full respect of the text and spirit of the World Heritage Convention

On the occasion of the 41rst session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow (Poland), Director-General Irina Bokova expressed a firm position on the role of UNESCO to foster peace: “World Heritage embodies a radical choice. Instead of distorting our heritage in endless disputes about what belongs to who, about which heritage is the greatest, the biggest, the oldest … here we choose to unite for heritage, because World Heritage is not about division, it is about building common ground. This is not a beauty contest, and this is not a political arena. This is a place for expertise and the highest standards of excellence, it is a place for dialogue and mutual understanding.”

On the margin of the opening plenary session, on 3rd  July, Ms. Bokova participated in a number of events to highlight this key message.
She opened a side event on “New Technologies for Cultural Safeguarding: the Case of Aleppo,” organized in partnership with UNOSAT and ICONEM to discuss the potential of new technologies, 3D imagery and remote assessment by drones to better assess and understand conflict-torn heritage. As Director-General stated, “New technologies represent wonderful tools to document and understand heritage. We must capitalize on their potential to invent the conservation of the future.

“Speaking about reconstruction is not enough – reconstruction is about stones and building and UNESCO prefers the notion of recovery, which includes the revitalization of social fabrics and support to human beings. Heritage is always about the people, and they cannot be delinked.”

The Director-General recalled the historic adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2347, the first to focus on cultural heritage. In her words, “This is a historical shift which bears witness to the clear understanding that protecting heritage is more than a cultural issue. It is a peace and security issue,” thus highlighting UNESCO’s work to ensure that cultural heritage protection is fully integrated into security and humanitarian responses to conflicts. 

On the same day, the Director-General participated in the inauguration of the Garden of Hope, a creation by Mrs Hedva Ser, UNESCO Artist for Peace. The event took place in the presence of the Mayor of Krakow, Mr Jacek Majchrowski. “This Garden of Hope, sends a powerful message about the role of art in overcoming pain and hatred, in exploring history, in learning from the past to build a better future. Here, we honour the life of all those who perished as victims of antisemitism,” declared the Director-General.

“With this Garden of Hope, we do not only mourn the dead, we want to alert the living, so everyone can see the new threats, can recognize new forms of hatred, racism and antisemitism today.”

During the course of a dinner hosted by Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture, Mr Piotr Glinksi, the Director-General paid tribute to “Poland’s renowned expertise and long history of involvement in the protection of cultural heritage,” thereby highlighting the role of culture and museums in consensus-building. “Museums are not just buildings housing old books and paintings. They are living heritage; they are about sharing history, they are about transmitting common values. They are about generating mutual understanding and fostering diversity and tolerance. As we open this 41st session of the World Heritage Committee, I believe it has never been more important to nurture this spirit of dialogue.”

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