International Forum for the 50th Anniversary of Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage commenced in Kazan

On Monday, 5 December, an official opening ceremony and a plenary session of the International Forum dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage took place in Kazan. The participants were personally welcomed by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Olga Lyubimova, the Head of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation Murad Kerimov.

Foreign Minister, Chairman of the Commission the Russian Federation for UNESCO Sergey Lavrov sent his greetings to the organizers and participants of the event. "It is gratifying that the forum brought together numerous domestic and foreign experts, including representatives of the Youth model of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The substantive agenda covers a wide range of pressing issues. In particular, it is necessary to discuss such important topics as the projects of the Great Silk Road and the restoration of the Syrian Palmyra," read out his words the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Vershinin.

Rustam Minnikhanov greeted all the participants on behalf of the Republic of Tatarstan, "which has long been an important link between the West and East". According to him, the region intends to continue cooperation with UNESCO advisory bodies, while remaining committed to its principles and ideals. The Head of the Republic stated that the current political difficulties are temporary and continued: "It is through the fundamental principles of UNESCO, through cooperation and dialogue that we will once again listen and understand each other. Let our forum serve the task of uniting, overcoming differences, reaching a new level of cooperation. I wish you all successful and fruitful work at the forum, to form new scientific approaches for mutual understanding, friendship and unity."

Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Olga Lyubimova noted that it was absolutely fair to hold the international forum in Tatarstan, "where the cultural and spiritual heritage of ancestors is honoured and carefully preserved." She pointed out that in the context of the ongoing politicization of the UNESCO site, the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee was not held in Kazan this year, at which the nomination dossier for including the "Historical Centre of Gorokhovets" into the prestigious UNESCO list had been expected to be considered. "The refusal to hold the session was not our decision. I would like to emphasise that Russia, in particular, the Ministry of Culture, remains open to the dialogue and international cooperation in all spheres, including matters of preserving the cultural and natural heritage of our planet. Evidence of this was the holding of this large-scale international forum here in Kazan. Representatives of several dozen states gathered to discuss a wide range of issues related to the preservation and popularisation of heritage," Lyubimova said.

Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Lazare Eloundou Assomo joined the plenary session through a video message. According to him, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Convention is to define the tasks for the next 50 years. "Climate change and heritage preservation, digital transformation, sustainable tourism and post-Covid-19 recovery are the priority areas that will be discussed everywhere in the future. By focusing our thoughts on these priorities together, we have the opportunity and potential to create highly efficient resources and accelerate innovation over the next 50 years," Lazare Eloundou Assomo noted.

The forum will last until 9 December. It will host seven conferences and a Youth model of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. In total, representatives of 56 countries came to Kazan.

The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is one of the most efficient and widely recognised international acts developed under the auspices of UNESCO. For half a century, the World Heritage List has been formed within its framework, that is a list of outstanding cultural and natural sites of universal value and requiring special protection.