Statement by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova

Paris, 20 October— On 16 October, the Director General of UNESCO expressed concern about escalating violence around and against cultural and religious heritage in the Middle East.

Today, the Director-General expresses renewed deep concerns and, in this spirit, she has started broad consultations so as to encourage UNESCO Member States to pursue constructive dialogue in accordance with UNESCO’s mandate.

She deplores the recent proposals under discussion by the UNESCO Executive Board that could be seen to alter the status of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and that could further incite tensions.

The Director-General appeals to the UNESCO Executive Board to take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.

The protection of cultural heritage should not be taken hostage, as this undermines UNESCO’s mandate and efforts.

“We all have responsibility to UNESCO’s mandate, to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace,” said Irina Bokova. “This is especially important for young people, who should be nurtured and educated for peace.”

Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. It is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, whose history has shaped the history of all humanity.

The Director-General has always appealed for dialogue and consensus so that UNESCO’s mandate of protecting World Heritage and promoting tolerance and mutual respect can be taken forward.

In this spirit, she reiterates today her calls to all parties to ensure that cultural heritage, including religious, is preserved and accessible to all and to resume dialogue in the spirit of mutual understanding.