On 12 April, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and the Executive Secretary of the International Centre for Research and Documentation on African Traditions and Languages (CERDOTOLA), Charles Binan Bikoi, signed an agreement to establish stronger, formal cooperation between the two Organizations, drawing on their respective expertise in the fields of culture and the safeguarding and promotion of African languages and African heritage.
Established in 1977 on the initiative of ten Central African countries with UNESCO’s support, CERDOTOLA is an intergovernmental institution that works for sub-regional cooperation in the field of culture and in human and social sciences applied to the knowledge, protection, safeguarding and enhancement of the traditional world, history, languages and cultural heritage of Africa. Its Member States are Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe. Its headquarters are in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
"I am especially honored that the signing of this agreement occurs during the 50th anniversary of the African Union which has chosen the theme of African Renaissance, a renaissance based on the richness of African cultures, and reflected by the diversity of their oral heritage," said the Director-General.
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of the Ambassadors, Permanent Delegates to UNESCO of Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Zambia.
As Executive Secretary, Charles Binan Bikoi said that the "Agreement is a historic event for Africa and for humanity." He went on to say that "culture remains the poor relation of development policies" and he highlighted that "there is no humanity without culture, there is no humanity without intellectual and creative production".
During the ceremony, the importance of preserving and promoting African oral traditions was highlighted as the priority on which the cooperation between the two institutions will be based.
Mr. Binan Bikoi thanked UNESCO’s Director-General and the Executive Board for having approved the cooperation agreement between UNESCO and CERDOTOLA. The Agreement seeks to support the achievement of general objectives concerning the following themes: cultural policies for sustainable development and the culture of peace through initiatives and programmes firmly rooted in the African heritage; safeguarding and promoting the cultural heritage, in particular the intangible heritage, including African oral traditions; enhancement of languages in development and in the life of African societies; promotion of artistic and literary creation and of creativity drawing on African traditions; research on and dissemination of the history of African peoples and, in particular promotion and pedagogical use of UNESCO’s General History of Africa.
In concluding, the Director-General underlined that the agreement would help strengthen UNESCO’s advocacy that culture in all its diversity, including oral traditions, embodies a foundation of wealth for all humanity, as well as a pillar for sustainable peace and development. "Cultural diversity, heritage, oral traditions, the protection and conservation of languages are issues of vital importance for humanity and the global agenda,” said Irina Bokova.