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UNESCO to participate in Expo 2015 in Milan and Venice, Italy

eing located in Venice, Italy and thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the cities of Milan and Venice on the International Expo 2015, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe is well-positioned to spearhead the Organization’s efforts to use “Expo 2015” as a platform for raising awareness on important issues relating to sustainable development at the local, regional and global levels.

Expo 2015 is a non-commercial Universal Exposition (not a trade fair) being hosted by Italy, to which 144 other countries have already confirmed their participation. Throughout the six months of its duration (May-October 2015), Expo 2015 is expecting over 20 million physical and one billion virtual visitors to its location in Milan, Italy. UNESCO, as part of the United Nations (UN) system, will participate in Expo 2015 together with over 20 other UN specialized agencies and programmes, coordinated by an UN-EXPO 2015 team under the leadership of FAO.

The general theme of Expo 2015 is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, which, along with its seven related sub-themes, provides a unique opportunity for the UN to showcase its achievements on relevant issues, with a special focus on food security and sustainable development. To this end, the UN has chosen to focus on its global initiative, the “Zero Hunger Challenge”, which, launched by the UN Secretary-General at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, aims to create a future where all people enjoy their fundamental Right to Food and where people’s livelihoods and food systems are resilient and able to withstand a changing climate.

The cities of Milan and Venice have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to qualify the direct and indirect participation in the Venice area at the Expo 2015 international event in Milan. Venice, with more than 23 million visitors a year, will therefore become a fundamental gateway to and, at the same time, important co-location of Expo 2015.

UNESCO, through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, based in Venice (Italy), is taking advantage of this unique opportunity and has signed on 3 December 2013 a MoU with the Comitato Expo Venezia, the body responsible for coordinating Venice’s participation to the Expo 2015, to further promote UNESCO’s mission and mandate in line with the Expo 2015 main theme and with the selected special theme for Venice’s participation to the Expo 2015, "Water, Energy for life".

Organized around these themes, the projects, events and activities UNESCO is planning will serve to introduce many of the Organization’s flagship programmes to the general public. Some of the initially proposed initiatives currently under development include: exhibitions on UNESCO designations (World Heritage sites; Biosphere Reserves; Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage) as best practices for sustainable development; the hosting of water-related international conferences; the promotion of “slow” and sustainable tourism along the historical waterways connecting Venice to its hinterland where many UNESCO designated sites are located; the organization of a treasure hunt to engage the many children and families visiting Venice along alternative itineraries throughout the city, in search for the “blue gold” (water), which would include the presence of actors and animators around the city offering an enriching and educating experience focused on the value of water and the importance to ensure its sustainability.

Efforts are also underway to create new partnerships and seek out new sources of financing to broaden the Organization’s networks and outreach capabilities for this series of activities, as well as for numerous other initiatives that UNESCO is trying to develop in Milan, Venice, as well as in other sites in Italy. Many of the activities and events will be hosted at the premises of the Regional Bureau in Venice, in the prestigious Palazzo Zorzi. Those readers that are interested in joining with UNESCO to contribute to the development of these or other exciting opportunities in Venice in the context of Expo 2015 are encouraged to contact the office.