Kyoto celebrates the closing of the 40th anniversary of UNESCO's World Heritage Convention for the p


"Japan is an outstanding and longstanding champion of UNESCO's World Heritage Convention -- its commitment reflects values deeply held in Japanese society, values that are sustained by national authorities, local communities, the private sector, youth engagement, and ordinary people all across the country," so declared the Director-General Irina Bokova in Kyoto, Japan, during the International Conference marking the closing of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

The Conference was hosted by the Government of Japan in the iconic city of Kyoto, whose region includes some 17 World Heritage sites. The Closing took place in the presence of Mr. Sok Han, the Vice Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia and Chairman of the World Heritage Committee, Mr. Kazuyuki Hamada, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Daisuke Matsumoto, Senior Vice-Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr. Yasuhiro Kajiwara, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Kazuaki Hoshino, Deputy Director General Natural Conservation Bureau, Ministry of the Environment, Ms. Alissandra Cummins, Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board, Mr. Genshitsu Sen, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and also Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Former Director-General of UNESCO.

The audience included cultural and natural heritage experts, representatives of governments from 60 countries, as well as municipal authorities, local communities, and civil society, totalling some 400 participants.

The Conference ranges over three days to explore the theme of the role of local communities for sustainable development. Discussions focus also on how to continue ensuring the credibility of the World Heritage Convention in the face of increasing pressures on cultural heritage from rapid urbanization, mass tourism, climate change, and conflict situations.

Deliberations will consider especially community involvement in the preservation of cultural heritage, youth engagement and heritage education with a view to ensuring the sustainable development of cultural heritage worldwide.

The outcome will be a renewed written commitment, embodied in "The Kyoto Vision", to strengthen the Convention as a tool for international cooperation, sustainable development and peace over the long-term.

The Director-General was also presented with the "Appeal of Tomorrow's Kyoto Cultural Heritage Platform" by its President Mr. Koichiro Matsuura -- a Platform that was established to ensure the long-term protection of cultural heritage in the city of Kyoto following the earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan in March 2011. The platform represents the collective engagement of local government structures and efforts of the citizens of the city to develop preventive disaster mitigation measures from a long-term perspective.

The Director-General commended deeply the Japanese national and municipal authorities, and in particular the Kyoto Committee for the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, for their exceptional commitment to heritage preservation and to the values enshrined in the Convention.

"Kyoto best exemplifies the World Heritage pact," declared Irina Bokova, "as it embeds nature and culture, the wealth of cultural diversity, its living heritage and tradition, community-and youth-engagement through its universities and centres of excellence, all of which converges to protect identity and heritage."

During her visit to Japan, the Director-General also held a bilateral meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic, Mr. Fumio Ohtsubo, following the renewal of UNESCO's partnership agreement with this major partner to enhance awareness raising and educational outreach activities for Wolrd Heritage.

Irina Bokova participated in the Panasonic Eco Picture Diary Contest Awards, acknowledging youth engagement in the sustainable environmental protection of cultural and natural heritage worldwide and gathering some 50 young girls and boys, aged 7 to 12 years from 38 countries.

The visit to Kyoto also featured the signing of a Cooperation Agreement with Professor Hiroshi Matsumoto, President of Kyoto University, for the establishment of an internship programme to strengthen UNESCO's action -- "through many talented young women and men coming from one of the world's leading institutions of higher learning, a haven for Nobel Prize winners and Fields medallists" said Irina Bokova. "Young women and men carry the greatest burden of change but they are also leading it" she added.

The signing ceremony was followed by a lecture delivered by the Director-General in the presence of a large audience of professors and students from Kyoto University, a highly renowned research institution dating back to 1886 which counts 7 Nobel Prizes for Physics and Medicine.