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Launch Of UN Year For Cultural Heritage

Launch Of United Nations Year For Cultural Heritage

The importance of preserving our heritage for future generations is the focus of “The United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage” which will be launched in New Zealand at a function in Wellington tomorrow (Friday March 1).

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and Te Puni Kokiri are joining forces to celebrate the Year with guests from organisations involved in the protection and promotion of our country’s heritage.

UNESCO is the United Nations organisation charge of protecting, safeguarding and enhancing the world’s heritage, and Director-General Koichiro Matsuura says the Year For Cultural Heritage is about increasing world-wide support and funding to promote and protect national and world cultural heritage.

“People all over the world need to be made aware of the importance of cherishing our varied heritage, both the treasures of our physical cultural heritage and the intangible heritage of traditions and cultural practices,” he says.

“In learning to appreciate and value our own heritage, we can learn to appreciate the heritage of other cultures. This is an essential step towards ensuring peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding,” he adds. “Heritage preservation is essential if we are to retain the wealth of our cultural diversity and ensure that the world is enriched rather than impoverished by globalisation.”

The proclamation of 2002 as the Year for Cultural Heritage follows on from a resolution adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference last year in response to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the now-ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

It reflects a concept that UNESCO has been advocating for many decades, which is that of a common heritage of humanity in which we all have a stake, regardless of geographic location. Through its longstanding heritage protection activities UNESCO has demonstrated that heritage protection can also play a significant role in the economic and social development of local communities, especially through cultural tourism.

The Year coincides with the 30th anniversary of the 1972 Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It aims to trigger off increased support by states, UN agencies, networks, and civil societies, as well as both private and public sectors, in favour of heritage protection.

The keynote speaker at the New Zealand launch, Professor of International Relations at Victoria University, Prof. Ralph Pettman will be asking some provocative questions about whether New Zealand is doing enough to preserve our cultural heritage. His focus is on what he calls intangible heritage - the culture you can’t put in a museum and go and look at. This includes things like festivals, traditional medical knowledge, oral language and folklore.

He says there has been increasing international debate about the concept of cultural heritage, and the importance of intangible heritage is coming more and more into focus.

“New Zealand needs to do more”, says Prof Pettman. “It is a country well placed to do more, because of its own sensitivities to these issues. The nation is faced daily with the fact of its bi-culturalism and with these issues of tangibility and intangibiilty.”

An example, he says, is that for Maori who are very close to their tradition, heritage has a very different meaning to the Pakeha notion of museums and preserving old buildings.

He says that as a nation we understand this and “this makes Kiwis experts in this area in a way that lots of other countries aren’t.”

Organisations with a stake in our cultural heritage invited to the launch include the Conservation Department, the Film Archive, the National Library, Creative New Zealand and several museums. They have been asked to contribute to an agenda for action throughout the Year.

The launch will be held at the Historic Places Trust Board Room, Antrim House, Boulcott Street, Wellington on Friday March 1 from 11am until 2.00pm

The function is hosted by The Hon Margaret Austin, Chair, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO; Mr Martin Matthews, Chief Executive, Ministry of Culture and Heritage and Mr Leith Comer, Chief Executive, Te Puni Kokiri

Keynote Address - "What does Cultural Heritage mean in New Zealand" by Prof. Ralph Pettman, Victoria University


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