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UNESCO and International Astronomical Union sign new agreement

Friday, 3 May 2013
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Professor Thierry Montmerle, General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Mr Kishore Rao, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre © UNESCO | Eric Esquivel

On 30 April 2013, UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) renewed their Memorandum of Understanding at the Organization’s Headquarters. The agreement has been concluded in the framework of the thematic initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage”, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The purpose of the initiative is to reinforce the links between science and culture by highlighting the importance of heritage linked to astronomy.

The participants in the signing ceremony included Professor Thierry Montmerle, General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU); Mr Kishore Rao, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre; Professor Clive Ruggles, IAU Special Advisor, UNESCO Liaison, Ms Anna Sidorenko, Coordinator, thematic initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage”, World Heritage Centre.

Professor Thierry Montmerle expressed IAU’s commitment to ensure the implementation of the Initiative and said: “I would like to convey our gratefulness to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its efforts in promoting astronomical heritage. Thanks to this Initiative and our collaboration the astronomy exists now in the third dimension – the history of astronomy is transcribed through time and continents.”    

Mr Kishore Rao expressed appreciation for the fruitful collaboration, and congratulated IAU for having made all the necessary efforts to enhance collaboration between the scientific and cultural communities, in support of the World Heritage Convention; and provide an opportunity to raise public awareness about this particular type of heritage.    

The three-year agreement commits UNESCO and the IAU to promote astronomical sites and provide States Parties to the World Heritage Convention with expertise, in preparing nominations for inscription on the World Heritage List of exceptional sites that bear witness to major breakthroughs in the development of scientific knowledge. This is a step towards the recognition of the importance of the astronomical heritage worldwide, in terms of its enrichment of the history of humanity and the enhancement of international exchange.

UNESCO and the IAU signed a first memorandum within the framework of the thematic initiative on astronomy and World Heritage in 2008. It was renewed in 2010 and implemented through close cooperation between UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the IAU, sparking off a series of activities entitled “Astronomy and World Heritage; across time and continents.”  It also led to the publication of a thematic work on astronomical heritage, compiled in cooperation with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to the creation of a web portal on the history of astronomical heritage and to the organization of numerous seminars and conferences on the subject.

Information on the implementation of the Thematic Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage” is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/astronomy/