On 7 January, 2015, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey, signed an agreement establishing a UNESCO Chair on Management and Promotion of World Heritage Sites: New Media and Community Involvement. The event took place in the framework of the 70th anniversary of UNESCO.
The purpose of this Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation on management and promotion of World Heritage, media and community involvement. It will facilitate collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised researchers and teaching staff of the University and other institutions in Turkey, as well as elsewhere in the World.
“No society can flourish without culture -- no development can be sustainable without it,” declared the Director-General. “This is the importance of this new UNESCO Chair– to develop innovative ways for community involvement in the sustainable management of sites and to enhance the capacities of management staff.”
"We complement UNESCO's efforts to reach out to young women and men, to address together the most difficult challenges facing humanity today," said Rector Mustafa Aydin. "UNESCO is the intellectual body of the UN and an actor for building lasting peace, and this is the spirit of this new Chair, about which we are very proud."
In the opening ceremony, Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali, Permanent Delegate of Turkey to UNESCO, spoke of the importance of ties between academia and the world of diplomacy.
"Times are changing," said the Ambassador, "and we need to deepen exchanges and share contributions" from all parts of society." He referred to the importance of cultural heritage and diplomacy in the world today, noting Turkey as "a cultural superpower."
On this occasion, the Director-General gave a lecture at Kadir Has University on the theme “Safeguarding the Past for a Better Future for All”, in the presence of the Rector of the University, Professor Mustafa Aydin, as well as students and professors of the University.
The Director-General highlighted the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage and diversity for reconciliation and peacebuilding today and tomorrow.
“For UNESCO, cultures are different across the world, but humanity stands as a single community, united around human rights,” she said. “On this basis, UNESCO works to promote culture as a dynamic force that enlarges opportunities and renews societies.”
“Culture is who we are -- it is the way we understand the world and the means by which we shape it,” said Irina Bokova.
In this context, Irina Bokova spoke about the urgent need to safeguard the cultural heritage and diversity under attack in Iraq and Syria – where Turkey is playing an essential role, in ensuring higher vigilance in the fight against the trafficking of cultural goods.
“We must do more,” declared the Director-General. “I believe we must create protected cultural zones around heritage sites, through stronger engagement with local actors. I have called on the UN Security Council to consider an international ban on trade in Syrian cultural objects and I urge all actors to integrate the protection of heritage and cultural diversity into humanitarian operations and peacebuilding efforts."
The Director-General recalled her visit to Mali, two years before with the President of France, and the scale of UNESCO's efforts to rebuild the mausoleums of Timbuktu.
In all of this, Irina Bokova spoke of the importance of the new UNESCO Chair and its innovative spirit, drawing on a multidisciplinary approach and a strong partnership between UNESCO, academia, the private sector and NGOs.
The ceremony closed with an introduction to the new Chair by the Chair-holder Associate Professor Yonca Kösebay Erkan, after which the signature of the agreement took place.
"I see all this as part of the renewed partnership between Turkey and UNESCO," said the Director-General.