Building peace in the minds of men and women

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director-General Irina Bokova discussed the critical role of culture in advancing peaceful coexistence across the region

On 26 April 2014, the Director-General was received by H.E. Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Minister reaffirmed his country's readiness to strengthen and expand further cooperation with UNESCO.

"We see in UNESCO the possibility to address the very roots of the problems of our time," said the Minister "if we want to end the war against violence and extremism, we have to invest in the work of UNESCO to promote dialogue among cultures and civilizations, as this is a matter of national security in our region."

The Minister went on addressing the threats of extremist ideologies and sectarian tendencies that are currently prevailing in some parts of the region. He indicated that unless serious efforts are being conducted to create synergies between different coexisting cultures, it will be difficult to contain such tendencies.

The Director-General concurred with the Minister's view that one of the greatest challenges of our globalized time is to manage cultural diversity and in being able to value the wealth of such diversity "culture in that respect is something on which societies and communities should build in order to unite the people. There is no pure culture in this world, all cultures have been influenced along the history and have become enriched."

Irina Bokova also referred to the growing attacks to cultural heritage in countries in conflict, such as in Mali and Syria. "Attacks to cultural heritage are affecting the very identity of peoples. UNESCO's reconstruction efforts are our response to extremism. We need to create a global consciousness for the rejection of these extremist tendencies.

Minister Zarif expressed his concern over the humanitarian crisis in Syria, stressing in particular the tragic situation of displaced children left out from the regular education system and the long-term consequences for their human development.

The Minister concluded by offering the full support of Iran to UNESCO, when the time will come, to rehabilitate and reconstruct Syria's millenary cultural heritage.

At the end of their meeting, the Director-General and Minister Zarif participated in a ceremony to mark celebrate the inscription of the rich documentary heritage of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and in particular the Collection of Selected Maps of Iran of the Qajar Era (1193 - 1344 AH/ 1779-1925 AD) providing a unique source of knowledge and wisdom for research and study on historical, cultural, political, social, scientific discoveries along the geographical plateau of Iran as the central part of the Silk Road, dating back the 10th century.

The Registrar includes books and medical treatises which were translated into Arabic, Urdu, Turkic and Hebrew and disseminated vital knowledge across Iran, Central Asia, India and the Ottoman Empire.

"Preserving this documentary heritage is critical for peace and for dialogue as it shows the transmission of knowledge among diverse cultures and civilizations," declared Irina Bokova.