The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, participated today in Nara (Japan) at the opening ceremony of the international symposium “ Safeguarding of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward an Integrated Approach” organised by Bunkacho (the Japanese Cultural Agency) and UNESCO, in the presence of Mr Toshio Kojima, Senior Vice-Minister of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr. Yoshiya Kakimoto, Governor of Nara Prefecture, Mr. Chubei Kagita, Mayor of Nara City and Mr. Nakanishi Koji, Director-General of ACCU.

This symposium is organised ten years after the famous Nara Conference on Authenticity, which explored new approaches for understanding the concept of the authenticity of tangible cultural heritage in different cultural contexts.

Mr Matsuura highlighted in his speech the pioneering manifesto represented by  ‘Nara Document on Authenticity', adopted at the end of the Conference, which aimed at “broadening our horizons to bring deeper respect for cultural and heritage diversity to conservation practice”. He noted that “since 1994, debates on cultural heritage have advanced greatly, especially in regard to a recognition of the distinctive character of intangible heritage”, concretised by the adoption in 2003 of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

He insisted on the need “to pay attention to the totality of cultural heritage of nations and communities so that protection measures are not only adapted to each component but also mutually supportive where possible”. In that regard, the development of cooperation between the two major UNESCO Conventions dealing with the protection and safeguarding of the tangible and intangible heritage will be of outmost importance. He noted that this question was addressed by the World Heritage Committee at its last session in Suzhou, China, where himself had the opportunity “to advocate the need for the harmonization of definitions and for the development of a consistent set of heritage policies”, adding that “a recommendation in this regard will be submitted to the extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee to be held at UNESCO Headquarters in December”.

He concluded his intervention stating that “that a new, inclusive and, where appropriate, unified vision of heritage” and “an integrated approach, which respects the diversity of cultures and which acknowledges the interdependencies of tangible and intangible heritages as well as their autonomy, will have to be studied and translated into concrete measures of implementation”.

On 19 October, the Director-General had the opportunity to hand over to the authorities of the three prefectures the World Heritage Certificate of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July of this year, the 12 th World Heritage Site, which combines natural and intangible features.