“UNESCO cooperation with the Arab region is stronger"

UNESCO Director-General concludes her visit to Egypt

On 14 May, Irina Bokova signed the renewal of an agreement between UNESCO and the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, on the Regional Center for Training and Water Studies in Arid and Semi-Arid zones. This signature with the Minister, Dr. Husam Moghazy comes after the UNESCO Executive Board’s approval to renew the status of the Regional Centre as a UNESCO Category II center.

“There is a lot of expertise on water in Egypt and this expertise matters for the entire region – we know the importance of water cooperation for peace, for sustainable development, and it is essential that we reinforce synergies in this field. I see this as a renewed chapter of UNESCO’s cooperation with Egypt,” said the Director-General.

Ms Bokova held a meeting with the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Dr Nabil El-Arabi, to discuss the role of UNESCO in the Arab region, and to coordinate efforts to protect cultural heritage from the fierce terrorist attacks recently witnesses. “We see clearly that sustainable responses will come from a regional cooperation, amongst all countries in the Arab Region. There is a strong political will to do so, and UNESCO is determined to strengthen its support to that effect.”

During her Mission, Irina Bokova held bilateral meetings with the President Abdel Fattah Il-Sissi and the Prime Minister of Egypt, Eng. Ibrahim Mahleb to discuss notably UNESCO’s role to protect heritage in the region, to sensitize youth about the need to care for heritage, and to support national capacities for the development of technical and vocational education and training, youth inclusion, social justice.

Ms. Bokova concluded her visit to Cairo with the launch of the “#Unite4Heriage” campaign, aiming to mobilize international, regional and local efforts to protect heritage in Egypt. The campaign was launched from the Museum of Islamic Art that was attacked in a car bombing on 24 January 2014. The launching also marked the inception of the UNESCO project on the rehabilitation of the Museum of Islamic Art, supporting the restoration of the damaged artefacts and training museum conservators. This project was made possible thanks to the contribution of the Italian Government, and the direct grant pledged by the UNESCO Director-General on 24 January 2014, on the same day as the attack, demonstrating UNESCO’s concern and condemnation to the destruction act.

On the first day of her visit, Ms. Bokova met with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Professor Ahmed Al Tayeb to discuss joint cooperation between UNESCO and Al Azhar. The Grand Imam also expressed his support to the “#Unite4Heritage” campaign in Egypt and in the Arab region.

Ms. Bokova delivered a speech at Al-Azhar University Conference Centre in the presence of the University President and a number of public figures. In her speech, she expressed her appreciation to the role of Al-Azhar in promoting the culture of openness, positive communication, respect for others and the protection of cultural heritage. The UNESCO Director-General visited the religious complex in Historic Cairo that exemplifies how history and heritage enrich society through the constant dialogue of civilizations and the peaceful coexistence of religions.

UNESCO’s project on “Urban Regeneration for Historic Cairo” implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities, was successfully concluded in November 2014. The project developed a draft strategy for the conservation and rehabilitation, aiming at the safeguard and regeneration of heritage. The strategy adopted new approaches to preserve and enhance heritage values and regenerate the physical and socio-economic environment with the contribution of local authorities within an effective institutional set-up and legal framework.