On 28 June 2014, Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, opened the First Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-East Europe “Enhancing Culture for Sustainable Development”, that took place in Ohrid under the chairpersonship of Ms Elizabeta Kanchevska-Milevska, Minister of Culture of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Director-General welcomed this timely gathering of ministers and high level decision-makers from South-East Europe in order to define coordinated policies and courses of actions to address current and future challenges in regional cultural cooperation.
“This is a time to renew our commitment and to open a new chapter in our work, with an integrated and unified platform for ministerial cooperation”, said the Director-General. “I see this also as an opportunity for UNESCO to deepen direct cooperation with participating countries and to reinforce its partnership with the European Union, the Council of Europe and others”, she underlined.
In her speech, Ms Bokova emphasised on the strong linkage between culture and sustainable development. She called the countries of South-East Europe to play a decisive role in promoting the power of culture in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
“I welcome this new platform all the more strongly, given its emphasis on the nexus between culture and sustainable development”, she said. “Culture brings sustainability of development -- by making it meaningful to people, by deepening ownership and participation, by making sure it is of the people, for the people, and by the people”.
The conference in Ohrid was the first meeting of the new unified ministerial cooperation platform on culture and development in South-East Europe. It was organized within the overall framework of UNESCO’s global initiative “Culture: A Bridge to Development”, which aims to develop innovative solutions for the safeguarding of culture in all its forms, as a tool for social, economic and human development. The meeting adopted a new “Regional strategy for cultural cooperation in South-East Europe”, which sets forth the priorities and modalities of action for future cooperation efforts.
While in Ohrid, the Director-General held bilateral talks with Ms Elizabeta Kanchevska-Milevska, Minister of Culture of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who is also President of the National Commission for UNESCO. Both sides expressed their satisfaction at the current state of bilateral cooperation, and exchanged views on the ways and means of strengthening them further, especially in the areas of the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, capacity-building and regional cooperation in culture, biospheres, disaster risk reduction, etc.
Ms Bokova commended the country’s active role in supporting regional projects to promote inter-cultural dialogue and integration processes. Mr Kanchevska-Milevska expressed her government’s appreciation for the decision of the 37th session of the General Conference regarding the establishment of the International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology - IZIIS in Skopje as a category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO.
On the margins of the Ministerial meeting, the Director-General has also met and held bilateral meetings with Mr Ivan Tasovac, Minister of Culture of Serbia and Mr Goran Svilanovic, Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).