Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, expressed her deep sadness at the death of Professor Ikuo Hirayama, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, on 2 December at the age of 79.
"UNESCO has lost a friend," she said. "For more than 20 years, Professor Hirayama lent his tireless support to the Organization's projects, especially in the fields of education, emergency relief and reconstruction. He was particularly concerned with making people aware of the value of cultural heritage as a basis for mutual understanding. He will be missed and remembered fondly by all at UNESCO."
Professor Hirayama, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, became an eminent painter and public figure. Campaigning for the preservation and restoration of the world's cultural heritage, he publicized the activities of what he called the "Red Cross Spirit for Cultural Heritage". This movement aims to help people in conflict or extreme poverty with financial and technical aid for the preservation of their cultural heritage.
A UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1989, Professor Hirayama promoted the preservation of Cambodia's Angkor Wat temples, China's Mogao Caves, Afghanistan's Bamiyan Buddhist monuments and North Korea's Koguryo Mural Tombs. He also funded the Ikuo Hirayama Silk Road Fellowship Program, which awards fellowships to 100 young Silk Road researchers throughout the world.