The Director-General witnessed the power of culture in action during her visit to Quang Nam province in Viet Nam, where she attended the 10th Anniversary of the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the opening of the 5th Quang Nam Heritage Festival in Hoi An.
Located in the center of the country, Quang Nam is the only province that is home to two World Heritage Sites (Hoi An ancient town and My Son Sanctuary) and one biosphere reserve (Cu lao Cham), endowing it with a special responsibility towards safeguarding and protection.
Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc and the Minister of Culture Tourism and Sport Mr Hoang Tuan Anh joined the opening ceremony that showcased Viet Nam’s intangible expressions from North to South, and brought together artists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.
“This is a great moment for culture, a moment of unity, a moment of belonging,” said the Director-General at the opening of the festival. “Viet Nam shows why culture matters for identity, for dialogue, for mutual understanding – these are the foundations of lasting peace and sustainable development. I am also pleased ASEAN countries are here today because socio-cultural harmony will be a pillar of the future ASEAN community. ”
Ahead of the opening, performers paraded in traditional dress through the streets of this ancient town decked with red and yellow lanterns that stands as an exceptional example of a South East Asian trading port, dating from the 15th to 19th century.
“We have a common voice around the preservation and promotion of heritage values because we believe these will contribute to peace and prosperity in Asia,” said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The province, which attracts some 1.5 million foreign visitors annually, aims to develop eco and cultural tourism, while also coping with the impact of climate change, reflected in a growing number of floods.
“The festival aims to preserve and promote our heritage, to raise the sense of responsibility of people, local communities and authorities," said Mr Nguyen Duc Hai, Secretary of Quang Nam Party Committee in an earlier meeting with Mrs Bokova.
In Hoi An, the Director-General also participated in the opening of a Tourism Information Center, the result of collaboration between UNESCO, ILO, and EU-funded program and other partners. The project transformed a run-down ticket office into a space with trained staff and featuring information about the province and displays of pottery, weaving and other traditional handicrafts made by local artisans.
“This is an important moment because it expresses the spirit of World Heritage: the spirit of safeguarding heritage and promoting it, the spirit of local engagement, of partnership for sustainable tourism,” said Mrs Bokova.
Noting that tourism is forecast to grow in Viet Nam, the Director of ILO’s Country Office, Mr Gyorgy Janos Sziraczki, stressed that the poorest communities in the province, mostly located in remote mountainous areas, must benefit by promoting their handicrafts.
On the sidelines of the festival the Director-General met with the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Mr Huang Tuan Anh, who described the country's rigorous efforts to inventory its cultural heritage sites and document its intangible expressions. “We need to document this heritage, train experts in restoration, excavation, site management and other skills. We also need to increase people's awareness and sense of responsibility,” said the Minister, also stressing the importance of expanding international cooperation, in particular with UNESCO. The Director-General praised the Government’s strategy, affirming UNESCO’s readiness to continue working in partnership.
Mrs Bokova awarded certificates to laureates of a “World Heritage in Young Hands Art Contest,” launched in 2012 by Panasonic Viet Nam and UNESCO, and that attracted thousands of entries from across the country, with winners chosen through an on-line vote. “It is very inspiring to see people, communities, children and youth united around protecting heritage and identities, and I congratulate Viet Nam for this,” said Mrs Bokova.