Global perspective Human stories

General Assembly marks end of UN Year for Cultural Heritage

General Assembly marks end of UN Year for Cultural Heritage

The United Nations General Assembly today marked the end of a yearlong observance of the value of the world's cultural heritage, stressing the need for global support and financial assistance in helping countries to protect their national relics.

In remarks at the outset of the discussion, Assembly President Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic noted that in proclaiming 2002 as the UN Year for Cultural Heritage, the UN's main legislative body intended to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the world cultural heritage, with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the lead agency.

Noting that "culture is the mirror of humanity," Mr. Kavan said that cultural heritage represented the historical record and understanding of an entire people in terms of their works, values, institutions and sights. All too often, however, cultural heritage has been the target of destruction by virtue of its value as a symbol of heritage and identity.

"Attacks on cultural heritage symbolizes the attack on the group as such, and indicates intolerance and hostility," Mr. Kavan said, recalling that the proclamation of the Year had taken place just nine months after the destruction of the two Buddhas in Afghanistan, which had represented a culture of tolerance. "The protection of the heritage, and its transmission to future generations, are therefore, ethical imperatives."

The Assembly President also encouraged countries to join the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and other related international accords at the earliest opportunity. "I also urge the active involvement of institutions, organizations and individuals at the international, national and local levels to protect and preserve our common cultural heritage and share the financial responsibilities," he said.