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Hu: Heritage protection an imperative task
Updated: 2004-06-28 10:06

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday called on the international community to strengthen protection of world heritage properties, describing the mission "imperative" to all in the world.

Hu made the remark in a message of congratulation to the opening of the 28th Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), which is held in Suzhou in east China's Jiangsu province from June 28 to July 7.

The message was read by Chinese State Councilor Chen Zhili at the opening ceremony.

The world heritage protection is "both a lofty historical obligation and a necessary requirement to maintain the continuation of human civilization and realize a sustainable development," he said.

The Chinese president noted that every country has its unique cultural and natural heritages, which are not only a precious legacy of a country or a nationality, but also treasures of mankind.

However, many valuable cultural and natural heritages have beeneroded after a long history or have suffered damages by human activities, while some have even been on the brink of being fully ruined, Hu said.

"It is an imperative task for the international community to strengthen protection of world heritage properties," he said.

China demonstrates full commitment to heritage protection: UNESCO official 

China has demonstrated its full commitment to preserving and safeguarding heritage sites and traditions in accordance with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention of 1972, a senior UNESCO official said in Suzhou Monday.

"China has an extensive and especially impressive cultural heritage," said Chairman of UNESCO Executive Board Hans-Heinrich Wrede at the opening ceremony of the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), which will last through July 7.

"In a world as diverse as ours, understanding our individual and collective histories becomes vitally important to forging a common destiny in the 21st century," Wrede said.

He expressed the hope to see a fruitful session this time, saying that much has already been accomplished by WHC in a relatively short time.

"Not too long ago, the world was still largely ignorant of the need to preserve cultural and natural sites. We did not yet, as wedo now, understand how fragile and how necessary as well this heritage is to a dignified life in the modern world," Wrede said.

He appreciated the preparations made by the host city for the session and hoped to learn more about Suzhou, with its renowned body of talent in architecture, painting, opera and literature.

"The possibility to learn more about Chinese culture, the people, country and traditions is a rare privilege," he said.


Heritage protection major aim, major struggle: UNESCO official 

President of the UNESCO General Conference Michael Omolewa said in Suzhou Monday that heritage conservation remains "a major aim and a major struggle," but it must be ensured that conservation efforts are development oriented.

"This maybe the major challenge for the World Heritage Committee nowadays," Omolewa told the 28th Session of the World Heritage Committee which opened in Suzhou, a scenic city adjacent to Shanghai.

With the recent entrance of the Kingdom of Tonga, the World Heritage Convention has a total of 178 member signatories. In the 32 years of the existence of the Convention, remarkable progress has been made. The World Heritage List currently comprises 754 sites in 129 countries.

"However," Omolewa said. "This also means that there exists an imbalance with the List, and one of the main purpose of the Committee nowadays is to work actively to reduce this imbalance."

"The Committee's attachment to heritage -- and thus the wish to reach a balanced representation on the World Heritage List -- finds its roots in our deep attachment to the diversity of conceptions of the world that it reflects," he said, noting it is increasingly obvious that the whole subject of heritage is closely bound up with the question of cultural diversity.

Omolewa stressed that the success of the World Heritage Convention is to provide a framework for the protection of world heritage, which goes far beyond its most visible aspects.

It promotes cultural dialogue and the recognition of cultural differences, supports sustainable development strategies and encourages the safe and long-term management of natural resources.

"Therefore, it is also instrumental in preventing conflicts and contributes to the reconciliation process associated to post-conflict situation," he said, adding: "Conservation remains, of course, a main aim and a major challenge."

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