Sunday, December 19, 2004

UNESCO: Progress in its Culture Program

UNESCO's Progress Report for the 170th Exec Board Meeting (The Meeting was in October, 2004. The next Exec. Board meeting is in January, 2005.)

PROGRAM IV – CULTURE: Overall assessment

"130. In line with its principal priority, the Culture Sector started its implementation of activities focusing on the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue by (i) promoting the drafting and implementation of standard-setting instruments in the cultural field; (ii) encouraging pluralism and dialogue among cultures and civilizations through the promotion of cultural diversity; and (iii) enhancing the linkages between culture and development through capacity-building and sharing of knowledge.

"131. Efforts have been especially devoted to enhancing the contribution of cultural heritage in all its forms – whether physical, natural or intangible – to social cohesion, nation-building in postconflict situations, and to economic development. In particular, this has been achieved by linking actions for the safeguarding and rehabilitation of monumental heritage with the traditional skills and associated know-how, and projects creating cultural itineraries for sustainable cultural tourism with the promotion of endogenous capacities for income generation through crafts and/or local and national museum development. Training and capacity-building have been systematically introduced as a component of all projects.

"132. With regard to post-conflict intervention, actions devoted to the safeguarding and rehabilitation of cultural heritage in Afghanistan have been pursued despite the temporary postponement of the second ICC session owing to security constraints. The Sector’s commitment to the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage of Iraq has been reinforced, leading to the approval of a UNESCO-Culture “umbrella project” for the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage of Iraq under the UNDG Trust Fund Facility for Iraq for a total amount of $5.5 million. Project implementation has already begun covering the fields of archaeological sites and historic buildings; museums and cultural institutions; libraries and archives; intangible cultural heritage, and the implementation of standard-setting instruments in the field of heritage protection with special emphasis on the fight against illicit traffic of cultural property. Pursuant to 167 EX/Decision 9.2 of the Executive Board, the first plenary session of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Iraq (ICC) was jointly convened by the Director-General of UNESCO and the Minister of Culture of Iraq, Mr Mufid Al-Jazairi, in Paris on 24 and 25 May 2004. The meeting was followed by the First Cultural Forum for Iraq, chaired by the Iraqi Minister of Culture and attended by intellectuals and artists from Iraq and the Iraqi diaspora, who established the basis for a new cultural policy in the country. The final Appeal recommended that religious, linguistic and cultural rights of all of the constituent groups of Iraqi society, along with freedom of expression and academic freedom, be guaranteed by the future Constitution of Iraq. It also proposed diverse measures to promote creativity and the participation of all in cultural life, the establishment of an inventory of architectural and urban heritage – including for monuments built by the former regime – and it is hoped that the Appeal will form the basis of discussions at a more comprehensive meeting to take place in Baghdad later in 2004.

"133. Post-conflict rehabilitation of cultural heritage was initiated in Haiti, Sudan and Liberia and also conducted within the framework of the 1972 Convention for the rehabilitation of natural heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Preparations were launched for a donor conference to be held later this year. Actions for the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage suffering from natural disasters were also initiated in Madagascar and in the Islamic Republic of Iran, following the destruction of the Old Citadel of Bam. In this context, UNESCO is actively pursuing efforts together with UNDP and the Iranian and Italian authorities for the preparation of a comprehensive culture and science strategy to be submitted to an international donor conference to be held in the autumn of 2004. Activities related to UNESCO’s efforts for rehabilitation and development in the Middle East, strategic guidelines were provided to the Joint UNESCO- Palestine Committee focusing on cultural heritage preservation, conservation and management; cultural industries and the promotion of living cultures; cultural tourism and the identification and protection of intangible cultural heritage with a view to the adoption of a comprehensive strategy and concrete operations in this regard.

"134. Full importance was accorded to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, notably by the organization of two regional conferences in Central and West Africa (Senegal) and in Latin America (Brazil), aiming at alerting Member States to the importance of identifying their intangible cultural heritage, making it an integral part of preservation policies as a key component of cultural diversity and human creativity, and promoting the ratification of the 2003 Convention. Action was geared towards encouraging States to identify more precisely the forms and items of the cultural heritage, and making States and communities aware of the value of and their responsibilities with respect to such heritage, in particular through legislative, institutional, and educational activities. To complement these actions, the Sector received 54 requests for preparatory assistance in connection with the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity to be held in July 2005.

"135. Preparation for the twenty-eighth session of the World Heritage Committee has been pursued, notably for the examination of 165 reports on the state of conservation of sites as well as 48 new nominations. The session resulted in the placing of 34 new sites on the World Heritage List, 29 being cultural and 5 natural sites. Geographical representation of the List was enhanced by the fact of five new countries having listed sites for the first time, namely Saint Lucia, Togo, Andorra, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iceland, raising the total number of World Heritage sites on the List to 788. It is to be noted that three sites were removed from the List of World Heritage Sites in danger following the presentation of successful conservation reports (Angkor – Cambodia; Mount Ruwenzori – Uganda; Fort Bahla – Oman). These were replaced by three new sites regarded as endangered, namely, Bam (Iran), Cologne Cathedral (Germany), and Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara (Republic of Tanzania). The Committee recommended that in future a maximum of two new nominations per State Party be submitted to each session of the World Heritage Committee. Owing to time constraints, the session will have to resume its work at an extraordinary one-week session in December 2004.

"136. Three expert meetings on the preparation of a preliminary draft convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and forms of artistic expression successfully completed their work, and Member States were informed of the steps taken in order to consult them on the preliminary draft. Experts considered that while acknowledging the dual economic and cultural nature of forms of cultural expression, the preliminary draft is derived from a cultural logic; hence, it is not in antinomy with other international instruments. The work of the experts has borne fruit beyond all expectations, and the outcome of the first phase of reflection is a broadly consensual, preliminary draft. Formal consultations were launched with WTO, UNCTAD and WIPO in this regard. The second phase will begin in mid-July, in accordance with the statutory deadlines, and a preliminary report together with the preliminary draft convention will be sent to Member States, inviting them to submit comments and observations by mid-November 2004 at the latest. The first intergovernmental meeting has been scheduled for 20 September 2004.

"137. Under the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity efforts were made to increase assistance to developing countries or countries in transition with a view to establishing viable and competitive cultural industries, and this resulted in the establishment of some 30 partnerships for the development of cultural industries and steps to combat piracy in developing countries.

"138. In the framework of the partnership agreement between Greece and UNESCO for the 2004 edition of the Olympic Games, heritage preservation as a shared legacy and common responsibility was endorsed through the sponsoring of four historical sites (in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Peru) by the Greek authorities. The aim is to raise worldwide awareness of the need to protect cultural heritage as the embodiment of cultural values by providing these countries with the label of the Olympic Games, thus strengthening the linkages between the values of sport and cultural heritage.

"139. The programme for the Preservation of Endangered Movable Cultural Properties and Museum Development was initiated to strengthen UNESCO’s capacity to support its Member States in the preservation of movable cultural properties for the benefit of Least Developed Countries and Low Income Countries as well as countries in transition. The Programme is currently funded from the $3.5 million contribution (as approved by the General Conference in October 2003). The selection process was completed and 11 projects were retained for implementation. Projects are at present being initiated with the relevant UNESCO field offices in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Sudan, Yemen, Guatemala, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

"140. Finally, activities for the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition (2004) were successfully launched in Mauritius (February 2004) and in the Bahamas (May 2004), as well as through the presentation of the virtual travelling exhibition Lest We Forget created by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The New York Public Library, in cooperation with the UNESCO Slave Route Project.

No comments: