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Source: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
16 October 2001

Paris, October 16 (No.2001-107) - Opening the general policy debate of the 31st session of UNESCO’s General Conference today, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura called for the launch, under the auspices of UNESCO, of “international effort in favour of the safeguarding of the heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem.”

“In these dark days of our shared history, with the shadow of fear, fire and blood hanging over us, it is a propitious moment for a significant act on the part of the international community that might betoken its sense of unity and desire to pull together in a major endeavour of co-operation, concord and peace,” Mr Matsuura declared.

Provided the initiative for the safeguard of Jerusalem’s heritage meets with broad endorsement, Mr Matsuura proposed to seek the means necessary to fund an operation that would be conducted “strictly on professional and technical footing, removed from all political considerations.”

“I seek from the international community,” he declared, “what I see as a duty of self-respect in this period of bewilderment and mindlessness, let us perform a highly symbolic act which sets forth our faith in the future of the human family at peace with itself anew.”

In the face of the events of September 11, “indispensable political, diplomatic, security and financial initiatives which are being taken by the international community must be complemented by others, of a cultural dimension,” Mr Matsuura said, adding: “These tragic events will have suddenly placed the values which are at the heart of UNESCO’s mission - tolerance, dialogue, respect and mutual understanding: in one word, the culture of peace - at the forefront of international priorities.”

Mr Matsuura called for “reinforced efforts to deepen knowledge and understanding of the diversity of cultures, and readiness to accept one another, including our differences, and to welcome the other in willingness to live together.” Mr Matsuura highlighted the need to establish, at the international level, both “instruments for a new form of dialogue” as well as “defining new rules, establishing norms and regulatory principles, or simply forms of operation, that are acceptable to all.”

The Director-General presented several aspects of UNESCO’s reinforced standard-setting work, designed to protect and consolidate “common public goods”.

The draft Declaration on Cultural Diversity, presented to the General Conference for adoption, the first international text in this field, defines diversity as a factor of inclusion rather than division;

Work on the development of an international instrument on the safeguard of intangible heritage which “is in due course to complement the 1972 World Heritage Convention”;

The Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage which meets a pressing need and will provide for “a complete range of standard-setting instruments for the protection of tangible heritage”;

The preparation of international legislation enshrining the fundamental principles of bioethics. In this regard, Mr Matsuura recently reiterated to the Secretary-General of the United Nations UNESCO’s readiness to undertake the preparatory scientific work concerning the elaboration of a Convention forbidding human cloning;

Still concerning bioethics, the elaboration of an international instrument on genetic data, which will address issues of confidentiality and genetically-based discrimination.

Regarding UNESCO’s activities over the coming two years, the Director-General expressed his wish to “focus work and resources on five areas considered as absolute priorities: basic education; freshwater resources and ecosystems; the ethics of science and technology; diversity, pluralism and intercultural dialogue; universal access to information, notably information in the public domain.”


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