Laura Bush and Irina Bokova, Honorary Chairs of ICOMOS Ceremony awarding UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Esther Coopersmith

From 4 to 5 December, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova is in Washington D.C. on the occasion of the United States National Committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) Award Ceremony honoring UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Esther Coopersmith in recognition of her longstanding commitment to cultural preservation across the world and building intercultural dialogue.

Held under the Honorary Chair of the Former First lady of the United States, Laura Bush, and the Director-General, the Benefit Gala this year pays tribute to Esther Coopersmith, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, who received the US/ICOMOS Award for International Cultural Heritage Leadership.

The Ceremony took place in the presence of Ms. Rachel Jacobson, Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Defence; Ms. Sheba Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations; H.E. The Honorable Ms. Christal Nix-Hines, Ambassador Permanent Representative of the United States of America to UNESCO; Ms. Jan Anderson, Chair of US/ICOMOS Board of Trustees; and of a number of high-level officials and members of the cultural heritage conservation community

More than 150 guests of the annual U.S. ICOMOS Gala gathered in Washington, DC, on 4 December to celebrate the lifetime accomplishments of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue Esther Coopersmith and to hear the keynote address of Director General Irina Bokova. 

The Director General paid tribute to Ambassador Coopersmith, calling her "the embodiment of the humanistic ideals of UNESCO, an ardent defender of multilateralism,  and a champion for peace."

In her address, Irina Bokova stressed "the soft power which is UNESCO's trademark and which is what transforms the world."

Referring to the destruction of cultural heritage in countries in conflict,"the very concept of World Heritage is under attack today"‎, she said. "We need ever more than before an intellectual and moral solidarity in such a troublesome world."

Echoing the Director-General in her remarks, United States Ambassador to UNESCO, Ms. Chrystal Nix-Hines underscored "the imperative to act now to preserve and halt cultural destruction and persecution‎ for the future generations."

‎"Destruction is totally unacceptable. We have to say it loud and clear" added Irina Bokova.

"History matters" declared the Honorable Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the main artisan behind the World Heritage Nomination of the San Antonio Missions. 

Referring to "the American leadership in spearheading international collaboration for cultural heritage preservation", he pursued " if you want to understand today, you have to look at yesterday".

Speakers underlined the importance of valuing the "blending of cultures" that are very much embedded in cultural heritage, which should be driving Member States' and communities' efforts ‎for enhancing connections amongst peoples across the world.