“What I propose to discuss with you is how cultural heritage can itself be a “trampoline” for social and economic development, in the same way that agriculture, water resources, power supplies or transportation systems have traditionally been perceived. Even in settings of abject poverty, cultural legacies, though once dormant, can become powerful catalysts for change.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, May 15, 2013, UNESCO Conference, Hangzhou, China.
“Culture is what makes us who we are, it gives us strength, and it provides answers to many of the challenges we face today,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, as her organization and China announced earlier this month an international congress on culture, which is now underway in Hangzhou, China.
The congress which began on May 15 for 3 days has brought together some 450 policymakers, leaders from development institutions, representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia, and the arts, and is expected to provide substantive input to the discussions on the framework for the post-2015 development agenda.
“The goal is to inspire Governments, civil society, businesses and communities to harness the power of culture in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges,” UNESCO said in its brief.
His Highness the Aga Khan in addressing the congress said, “UNESCO is to be saluted for keeping the work of cultural development high on the international agenda,” His Highness was received by Her Excellency Madame Liu Yandong, Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China (link to press release and speech given at end of post).
During her meeting with the UNESCO chief, the Chinese Vice Premier had said that education, science and culture were high on the agenda of the new Chinese government, and explained that China aspires to “provide people with better education, better living conditions, more satisfying jobs, better medical services and a better environment for people to live in. This aspiration is closely related to what you are doing in UNESCO.”
This was underscored by His Highness the Aga Khan in his address when he said, “I also want to recognise the important work that China has been doing, in cooperation with UNESCO and through its own advances in cultural development.”
The congress host city of Hangzhou has been a significant cultural center in Chinese history. It is considered as a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts & Folk Art, and is home to the West Lake Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With its mist-covered hills, willow-lined banks and ancient pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands, Hangzhou’s idealized, classic landscapes were conceived in an effort to manifest the perfect fusion, and harmony, between man and nature. The area has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century.
Date posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
Post compiled by Simerg.
To read press release as well as complete speech of His Highness the Aga Khan, please click AKDN – The Aga Khan Speaks at UNESCO China Conference.