On 17 September, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Culture Mr Francesco Bandarin signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with Ms Francine C. Berkowitz, Director of International Relations of the Smithsonian Institution, creating an unprecedented agreement between the two institutions for cooperation on cultural and natural heritage programmes. Ms Berkowitz signed on behalf of Mr Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture.

Together the Smithsonian and UNESCO will develop programmes and work together on a wide range of projects, including a travelling exhibition and an international conference on the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 2012. Other initiatives will be directed to conserving natural World Heritage sites, developing outreach on World Heritage and indigenous issues, conducting research on the means of preserving the world's languages, activities for the dissemination of traditional music, and aiding in the recovery of Haiti's cultural heritage following January 12 earthquake.

Based in Washington, D.C., USA, the Smithsonian Institution was created in 1846 and has established museums, research centers and programmes dedicated to the understanding and preservation of humanity's cultural heritage, contemporary cultural creativity, and the sustaining of the planet's biodiversity.