HAVANA.- Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, recently undertook a second official visit to Cuba which included a busy schedule of commitments with the single purpose of creating a vision of culture as a driving life and sustainable development force.

In a world ravaged by war, cultural destruction and looting, heritage preservation has become an absolute necessity, and as such permeated every event in which the diplomat participated in Havana.

Indeed, this was the central topic of the UNESCO workshop held on September 18 to approve a work plan and on day two, a third meeting of Ministers of Culture from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in Spanish) took place on September 18 and 19.

The document approved at the workshop included themes relating to the defense, safekeeping and conservation of heritage material, the prevention of and the fight against the illicit trafficking of heritage items and the battle for respecting diversity.

 Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, recently undertook a second official visit to Cuba which included a busy schedule of commitments with the single purpose of creating a vision of culture as a driving life and sustainable development force.Bokova said that this was a most timely UNESCO meeting in Havana because at the end of September the United Nations Organization will discuss post 2015 Sustainable Development Objectives.

The UNESCO Director General added that one of her organizations’ primary objectives is the inclusion of culture as a fundamental factor in this program, in recognition of its role as a motor for sustainable development.

She shared that we have worked over a number of years to validate this area as a force for inclusion and social justice and considered that we have great future potential.

We now face a major challenge, she added: the facilitation of sustainable models of social and economic development within which culture is an essential element of the endeavors to eradicate hunger and poverty.

She emphasized that although Latin America and the Caribbean were very much heterogeneous regions incorporating diverse understandings of production models, there was the shared objective that together they would constitute a peace zone.

Bokova also referred to the meeting of Cultural Cela Ministers as being a big opportunity to be able to elaborate strategies that watch over the preservation of patrimony and diversity.

During her visit, Bokova celebrated 70 years of UNESCO at the Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean on the island: the first to be established outside the Paris headquarters.

In a ceremony held at the Palacio de Segundo Cabo, in the heart of Old Havana, Bokova presented the official Historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal, with a 70 year commemorative medal, a recognition that she explained symbolized peace.

The diplomat thanked the loyal defender of the Cuban capitals heritage for his tireless work, describing his “symbol for UNESCO, as an illustrious humanist and a man of his time”.

The Historical Center of Havana has been a designated World Heritage Site since 1982 and according to the Director General, the city is in essence a mixed “nucleus of the union between the American and the other continents”.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Convention on Cultural Diversity and Bokova acknowledged Cuba‘s efforts in this regard.

Irina Bokova has been Director General of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization since the November 15, 2009, having been reelected to the post for a second term in 2013. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European Director to date.

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