United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
22 April 2007

UNESCO Executive Board adopts landmark decision concerning the Mughrabi ascent in the Old City of Jerusalem

UNESCO's Executive Board has adopted a decision reaffirming the outstanding universal value of the Old City of Jerusalem and the need to protect and safeguard this World Heritage site. The decision followed a special meeting of the Board – whose 176th session has been underway in Paris since 10 April.

Adopted by consensus, the decision also recommends that the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee hold an urgent, informal meeting, in early May, to ensure a substantive discussion on the follow-up to the report of the Technical Mission sent to Jerusalem from 27 February to 2 March by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura. It also "requests the Director-General […] to propose to the World Heritage Committee at its upcoming meeting a mechanism to ensure the proper implementation of World Heritage Committee decisions."

Commenting on the outcome of this “landmark decision”, the Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Zhang Xinsheng (China) noted that this was the “first time that Israelis and the Palestinians had worked together to ensure the protection of Jerusalem, an endangered World Heritage site common to all of humanity; and to work together constructively towards achieving consensus on this important and highly complex matter.” The decision, he said was "the fruit of an open, generous and constructive dialogue, the results of which will help to ensure that consultations amongst all parties become the usual practice.”

“The ability of the parties involved,” he continued, “to achieve what, at the outset seemed unachievable, demonstrates UNESCO's unique ability – as a specialised agency within a reforming United Nations – to build bridges, generate solidarity, and, most especially, to help in our own way towards building a harmonized world, thus creating greater peace and relieving tensions in the Middle East.” In concluding the Chairman noted that “the resolution of this highly complex issue was possible thanks to the active contribution of Members of the Board, of the President of UNESCO’s General Conference and of the Organization’s Director-General."

The Director-General of UNESCO also welcomed this new opportunity to reaffirm that "our determination to safeguard all cultural heritage properties - especially those in danger, wherever they may be, and in whatever circumstances - is an integral part of our mandate. The 1972 World Heritage Convention," Mr Matsuura added, "is one of our institution's most powerful symbols, a striking success of standard-setting at the service of shared universality. We have, once again, been able to show that UNESCO is a propitious forum of dialogue and peace, away from all controversy."