6 July 2012

Statement by H.E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO Tavricheskiy Palace, Saint-Petersburg 06 July 2012

Dear Colleagues and friends – Members of the World Heritage Committee, Representatives of States Parties, Representatives of ICCROM, IUCN and ICCOMOS, Representatives of the local communities and non-governmental organizations, Members of the World Heritage Centre, Two weeks have past; the Committee session is now going to the close. Today I would like to note that our work was hard and intense, constructive and flexible, inspiring and historic, sad and solemn, enriching and cultural, youth-friendly and politically correct, in a spirit of solidarity, cooperation and tolerance. All of this, in the name of the noble mission of the World Heritage Convention. Having the session held for the first time in Saint-Petersburg, the city with the unique destiny and history, in such a symbolic place as this Tavrichesky Palace, gave us a framework to reach the most appropriate decisions serving the interest of the sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, which has to become more representative. The tragic event in Mali, one of the Committee Member States, gives a wider dimension to what we still have to achieve in advancing our strong commitment to the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the natural and cultural heritage of the humankind. I deeply regret this as do all members of the Committee. By the solid Appeal to the international community launched from Saint-Petersburg on 3rd July last we, Members of the Committee, have strongly condemned the acts of destruction of mausoleums in the World Heritage property of Timbuktu. By our decision, we called on the Director-General of UNESCO to create a special fund to help Mali in the conservation of its cultural heritage. The international community as a whole has a duty to monitor the situation and must do everything possible to prevent such cases. On behalf of the Committee Members, I would like once again to convey our deepest solidarity to the government and people of Mali, through their distinguished representatives and our fellow colleagues and friends from the Delegation. Even in the current context of complex international crises and social tensions and with an increased demand for international assistance from different parts of the world we do not have other choice then to prevail in eradication of all kind of crimes against history, culture and diversity. Ladies and Gentlemen, there is also still much more to be done in regard to the considerable number of designated sites and their potential that we have to reveal for the future. We have to constantly monitor the process that each World Heritage property is credible as such and meaningful in terms of its management and protection. This time the Committee has inscribed to the World Heritage List 26 properties – 5 natural, 1 mixed and 20 cultural – of which 4 are from unrepresented countries: Chad, Congo, Palau and Palestine. Let us express to these States Parties our warm congratulation and give an affectionate applause. As we all know, the inscription of these new properties is only the beginning of a long process of ensuring that these sites retain the Outstanding Universal Value for which they have been inscribed. This is a heavy responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of the Committee as well as the relevant States Parties. All nominations were naturally done in strict compliance with the Rules of Procedures and the Operational Guidelines which are regulating the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The Convention mainly being there to contribute to a better understanding of the cultural and natural diversity of the world, I now look forward to hearing about how effectively and timely our today decisions will be made operational which is a pledge of the successful conclusion of this 40th anniversary celebration year. It is also our obligation that all decisions we will have to implement and to take in the future are resulting from a collective process of transparent and confident consultations involving every single body of the Convention. Among ourselves, among all States Parties, together with the Advisory Bodies and all relevant communities on the ground, we have to steadily continue to promote the role World Heritage plays in the sustainable development on our planet. Local and indigenous people are always to be considered the key actors who make this global heritage possible. In this regard, I would like to bring your attention to the outcomes of the First International NGO Forum entitled Protection of the World Heritage Properties and which took place in Saint-Petersburg, on the margins of our session, from 22 to 24 June last. Its proposal to create global network of non-governmental actors called World Heritage Watch focusing its work on the protection of World Heritage Properties is in my view a very interesting finding. Dear friends, if the ultimate goal of heritage conservation is to improve the quality of our collective existence, we must ensure that our work is business-focused and development-oriented and our measures for the preventive action are indeed proactive. Our ultimate goal is also to transmit to future generations the diversity of our world. It is in consideration of this mission that the new initiative of the Youth Model of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was organised in parallel to our meeting in Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Few days ago many of us could help prepare the decision-makers of tomorrow coming from each of the Committee Members` countries through the direct dialogue by special teleconference. This was an exciting and very interesting experience. Many of us, including myself, will have the pleasure to go to Kazan to continue to interact with our young counterparts on how to better take over collective responsibilities for the long-term conservation of heritage sites in our globe. We consider that this format opens up great opportunities for the involvement of the young generation in activities aimed at conservation of natural, cultural and spiritual properties of our countries and peoples. We all hope that this initiative has a big future, because young people with their natural enthusiasm and understanding of progressive ideas, built on the experience and knowledge of their elder colleagues, will provide a fresh contribution to the work of our Committee. Dear colleagues, in conclusion, I would like to express my sincere thanks to you all for your trust in me during my office of chairing the work of the Committee. With your confidence and recognition I have humbly exercised my duty over the last year and I can truly say it was a big challenge! I cannot fail to draw attention to the great honour paid first and foremost to my country in appointing me to this important post. Following its first-time leadership of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, the Russian Federation will continue to express its commitment to its work and to provide comprehensive support to its values and priorities. I am especially pleased that the World Heritage “label” has been associated with many exceptional Russian sites, and particularly those located in Saint-Petersburg. It is natural that I express, on your behalf and on my own, our deepest gratitude to the Government of the Russian Federation, to the city of Saint-Petersburg and to its Organizing Committee, to the Government of the Republic of Tatarstan, to the Russian National Commission for UNESCO, and to all young volunteers for the dedicated efforts in making this wonderful and touching experience possible. I am very grateful to all of you, my dear colleagues, for your incessant and concerted efforts, assistance and support in making a lot of progress for the future of the World Heritage. It was a pleasure for me working with you, the Committee Members, its Bureau, the States Parties and Advisory Bodies in the implementation of such a prestigious instrument as the World Heritage Convention. I also very much appreciated the continuous commitment of the Director-General of UNESCO, the Assistant Director-General for Culture, the Director of the World Heritage Centre and his devoted staff, without to forget my Personal Assistant. Remaining objective right to the end means neither forgetting to mention the role of interpreters, technicians, media-centre, restaurant and all other related services. Ladies and Gentlemen, I now shall relinquish my authority in order to join you in congratulating my successor to whom I shall gladly pass the wealth of experience I have gained in this post. I would like that we warmly welcome the newly elected Members of the Committee`s Bureau – Cambodia as the Chair; Algeria, Colombia, Senegal, Thailand and Switzerland as Vice-Chairs, and Serbia as Reporter. Now, my greatest hope is that each of you will return home with high level of motivation, energy and enthusiasm to apply the Saint-Petersburg experience in heritage conservation to your own communities at national and local levels. May the artistic programme of today closing evening leave in your hearts the vivid souvenir of the white nights city`s exceptional heritage! I wish us peace and success in all our future undertakings! And I solemnly declare the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO closed!