PARIS, NOVEMBER 14 – UNESCO’s Member States on Tuesday closed the 39th session of the Organization’s General Conference with the adoption of a series of programme and budget decisions, reaffirming the pertinence of the Organization to the challenges facing the world. During the session, the Organization’s Member States also elected Audrey Azoulay as the 11th Director-General of UNESCO.
Speaking of the pertinence of UNESCO’s mandate to foster solidarity and cooperation in education, the sciences, culture and communication during her investiture as Director-General, Ms Azoulay said that “facing the global challenges of today, against obscurantism and deadly oversimplification, we [UNESCO] hold the only sustainable and credible answer.”
Among the documents adopted, Member States launched an “Appeal on Protecting Culture and Promoting Cultural Pluralism as a key to lasting peace”. The appeal, following an Italian proposal, calls for culture, cultural heritage and diversity to be factored into international humanitarian, security and peacebuilding policies and operations, building on UN Security Council Resolution 2347(link is external). The resolution, adopted in March this year, recognizes “attacks against sites and buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, or historic monuments may constitute, under certain circumstances and pursuant to international law, a war crime and perpetrators of such attacks must be brought to justice.”
“Defending cultural heritage is key to fostering peace and sustainable development,” the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano said in commenting the adoption by the General Conference of UNESCO of the Appeal, promoted by Italy and read out in the United Nations’ six official languages by children and adolescents from different parts of the world.
“The Appeal – affirmed Minister Alfano – is addressed to governments but above all to young generations, urging them to protect their cultural heritage and the values that it represents for Humankind. It is a solemn act that reminds us that protecting cultural heritage and pluralism is essential to foster peace, security and sustainable development.”
The Minister proudly recalled that, for the first time, Italy was elected to hold the Presidency of the UNESCO Culture Commission to which the Appeal was submitted. He went on: “It is the result of an action promoted with conviction by our Country within UNESCO, which has led the international community to progressively acknowledge the importance of defending cultural heritage as the expression of the identity of all peoples, and cultural pluralism as the necessary precondition for peaceful coexistence and sustainable development.”
He added: “It is within this context that Italy was the first of all the Organization’s Member States to establish a national Task Force to combat illegal trafficking, made up of cultural property experts and members of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Property.”
Minister Alfano also announced that at the end of the month, during the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, Italy will organise an event dedicated to these issues in the wake of Resolution 2347 which, for the first time ever, establishes a link between cultural heritage and maintaining peace and security. (@OnuItalia)