UNESCO's Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, and the President of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, presented today in Paris a joint training project for development and sustainable ecotourism, aimed at local communities in the Rapa Nui National Park, a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

To launch the project, financed by the Government of Japan, a declaration of intent was signed by Koïchiro Matsuura and the Chilean Minister of Education, Mónica Jiménez de la Jara. The project aims to develop tourism strategies that respect the outstanding universal value of the Rapa Nui National Park, for which the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

"A society capable of preserving its heritage is capable of preserving its history and its identity," declared Michelle Bachelet Jeria, who also underlined that the project is "a remarkable initiative intended to give the local community a leading role in the enhancement and promotion of their own heritage."

Renowned for its moai, the giant Polynesian stone figures, Rapa Nui receives more than 60,000 visitors annually. Thanks to the moai, this inhabited island, isolated from the mainland, has become one of the main tourist destinations in Chile. It is expected that the project will alleviate the growing pressure on the island's fragile ecosystem resulting from tourism. The Director-General trusts that the project will "reduce the negative impact of tourism [...] by finding a balance between the needs for the preservation of the site and the development of the island community".

The current Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, María Jesús San Segundo, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Spain to UNESCO, highlighted that the joint project reinforces "this spirit of international cultural cooperation that has made the 1972 World Heritage Convention one of the best examples of effective multilateralism. This convincingly demonstrates that the 186 States Parties are stronger working together than separately".