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NZ support to cultural heritage preservation

UNESCO - PM gives NZ support to cultural heritage preservation efforts

Prime Minister Helen Clarke has signed an Arrangement with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in Paris committing New Zealand to more active promotion of the World Heritage Convention.

The World Heritage Convention was established in 1972 to identify and protect examples of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value. 176 countries, including New Zealand, are signatories to the Convention.

The Prime Minister’s joint meeting with the Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, who is to visit New Zealand early next year, and the Director of the World Heritage Centre has been welcomed by the Chair of the New Zealand National Commission Margaret Austin.

“New Zealand was the second country to join UNESCO in 1946. In signing this Arrangement the Prime Minister has put New Zealand amongst a first wave of countries committing to an increased level of support for the Convention. Recent world events have shown us the vital need for widespread understanding of the value and importance of cultural heritage,” Mrs Austin said.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for the Prime Minister to reinforce New Zealand’s candidature for membership of UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Committee is the governing body for the Convention. Amongst its roles, it considers nominations for sites of outstanding and universal significance, and adds these to the World Heritage List. There are currently 730 sites on the list including three in New Zealand. This country’s first-ever bid for membership of the Committee is being led by Ngati Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief Tumu Te Heuheu with the support of the Department of Conservation which administers the Convention in New Zealand.

If elected to the World Heritage Committee at the UNESCO General conference in October, New Zealand will provide a voice for the Pacific region on heritage and conservation issues. The Pacific covers a third of the earth’s surface but is barely represented in the World Heritage List and has never before had its own voice on the World Heritage Committee.

“We are delighted that the campaign to get New Zealand elected to this Committee is able to be so actively supported by the Prime Minister,” Mrs Austin said.

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