His Majesty the King of Spain commends UNESCO’s efforts to protect cultural heritage in conflicts

On 3 June, 2015, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, had a meeting with Their Majesties King Felipe and Queen Leticia of Spain, on the occasion of their visit to Paris.

The King expressed his strong support to UNESCO’s steadfast efforts to spread the message about the importance of preserving cultural heritage currently under threat of destruction in Syria and Iraq. Sharing his deepest sympathy and understanding over the tragic destruction of cultural heritage, King Felipe emphasized the tragic loss of the wealth of human, historical and artistic legacy for humanity as a whole, following the destruction witnessed in the last few months. The King underlined here the crucial importance of transmitting heritage from past to present and future generations, as a source of identity and belonging, as well as confidence and respect for others.

The Director-General shared with Their Majesties the actions implemented by UNESCO to strengthen the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects in close cooperation with its partners from Interpol to UNODC. She referred to the major achievement of the adoption of the resolution 2199 by the Security Council establishing a direct link between illicit traffic and the financing of terrorism. She also highlighted the social media campaign #Unite4heritage, launched by UNESCO in support of heritage protection and to raise awareness among youth about the importance of cultural heritage for identity and social cohesion. The Director-General also underlined UNESCO’s actions to support States hosting growing numbers of displaced peoples, notably with regard to human rights and education in order to counter intolerance and youth radicalization.

His Majesty King Felipe expressed his country’s deep attachment to world heritage -- cultural, natural, and intangible cultural heritage -- emphasizing the ever growing need also to preserve biosphere reserves as essential environments for sustainable development and to counter the consequences of climate change.

In this context, the Director-General shared UNESCO’s strong engagement in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP 21, hosted by France later this year, and in particular, UNESCO’s organization of the scientific conference in July, as well as the Conference on Climate Change and Business, the Organization’s leadership through the Scientific Advisory Board, UNESCO’s activity on oceans and biodiversity, as well as UNESCO’s 2015 Youth Forum in November focusing on climate change.

Referring to the partnership between UNESCO and the Abertis Foundation, Irina Bokova commended Spain for the engagement of the private sector in research and innovation for sustainable development, building on the expertise developed at the UNESCO Centre on Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves, in Le Castellet, near Barcelona -- providing a unique laboratory of resources on sustainability in natural spaces, environmental services in Biosphere Reserves and on-line sustainability indicators, including in marine ecosystems, as well as North-South cooperation in connection with Biosphere Reserves and National Parks in the Mediterranean region.