Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Julie Bishop emphasized her country’s resolve to work with UNESCO to defend the safety of journalists, freedom of expression and the protection of cultural heritage under attack in Syria and Iraq, during a meeting with Director-General Irina Bokova on 20 April 2015.
The Director-General briefed the Foreign Minister on the adoption on 12 February of UN Security Council Resolution 2199 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legally-binding measures to counter the illicit trafficking of antiquities from Iraq and Syria, thereby making for the first time a direct and explicit link between the former and the financing of armed groups and terrorism. She explained that the resolution boosts UNESCO’s action to strengthen international cooperation around the protection of cultural heritage and informed the Minister about a subsequent high-level meeting with key partners to map out its effective implementation, as well as plans to launch a global coalition against the illicit trafficking of works of art. Minister Bishop concurred on the need to raise awareness and expressed strong backing for UNESCO’s efforts. She also voiced appreciation for UNESCO’s work to promote freedom of expression and implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists.
Ahead of the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany in June, the Foreign Minister underscored the actions taken by the Australian Government to respond to the Committee’s requests pertaining to the conservation and sustainable development of the Great Barrier Reef. She referred to the submission of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, stressing that it is backed up by sizeable financial resources from both the Federal and the Queensland Provincial Governments. She emphasized that the process of developing the plan to ensure the site’s outstanding universal value demonstrates that UNESCO can have impact on domestic policies in a positive way and can serve as an example to all Member States, expressing appreciation for the advisory support provided by the World Heritage Centre.
The Director-General commended the Australian Government for the scope of its efforts, including the adoption of laws that ban capital dredging, noting a concurrence of understanding on the stakes of sustainable management and financing, both for Australia and UNESCO.
In ending, the Director-General thanked Australia for its support to UNESCO and strengthening record of cooperation.