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HM the King Addresses Message to Participants in 17th UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

His Majesty King Mohammed VI addressed a message to the participants in the 17th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which kicked off Monday in Rabat.

Here follows the full text of the Royal Message, which was read by Secretary General of the Government, Mohamed Hajoui.

“Praise be to God,

May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to send you this message on the occasion of the seventeenth session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Welcome to you all as honored guests in the Kingdom of Morocco. I appreciate your untiring efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of humankind. I also welcome Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, and commend all she has been doing to further the Organization’s mission to make peace, solidarity and understanding prevail among peoples and cultures.

The choice of the city of Rabat to host the proceedings of this conference is not a random decision. Rather, it is a reflection of the significant cultural influence of this time-honored city, which is a global cultural hub. Indeed, Rabat has been chosen as the capital of African culture for 2022, and as the cultural capital of the Islamic world for the same year. Its singular geographical location made it a hub for various civilizations, including the Phoenician, Roman, Islamic, Andalusian and European ones. This entitled Rabat to be declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2012.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This session is being held nineteen years after the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage – an instrument that has made it possible to achieve significant progress in a variety of areas relating to the intangible cultural heritage. As a result, signatory countries have been addressing issues concerning intangible heritage from a single perspective, the basis of which is the preservation, development and valorization of that heritage.

Since the entry into force of the Convention, this goal has become a major challenge in international relations, calling for the need to tackle illegitimate attempts by some to claim the cultural heritage of other countries as their own.

Given the rapid changes affecting the world today, it has become necessary to highlight the intangible heritage of countries around the world, and to adopt measures for its preservation, namely by furthering the objectives set out in the Convention.

This is what Morocco has been doing since it ratified the Convention in July 2006. To date, my country has eleven sites and elements registered on the UNESCO World Intangible Heritage List. The latest, Tbourida – an equestrian performance – was registered last year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In keeping with a commitment to promote the intangible cultural heritage, the Kingdom of Morocco has been playing a significant role to protect it. Thus, it has strengthened its legal arsenal and has been actively engaged in the implementation of the provisions of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, to the drafting of which Morocco contributed. My country has also prepared inventories of heritage sites, seeking to make them a living human heritage, in line with the Convention’s spirit.

In this regard, Morocco has signed all UNESCO international conventions regarding the heritage. It has also brought its national legislation in line with the relevant international conventions and instruments. Furthermore, my country has taken part in various programs regarding the preservation of the heritage, in addition to contributing to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.

Given my special interest in the cultural heritage, and as part of implementing the Convention provisions, I announce the creation of a national center for the intangible cultural heritage. The center will enable our country to build on the gains achieved in this field.

As part of its mandate, the center will continue to carry out systematic inventory operations of national heritage sites and elements in various regions of the Kingdom. It will also be tasked with developing a national database in this regard, holding scientific and academic training sessions to enhance the skills of conservation practitioners, and making sure young people are aware of the importance of the cultural heritage. In addition, the center will ensure follow-up to the effectiveness of the mechanisms adopted to preserve Moroccan heritage sites that feature on the World Heritage List, and prepare nomination proposals concerning our country.

Morocco has organized a number of scientific workshops and seminars, international forums, and cultural events for the constant preservation and enhancement of the intangible cultural heritage, which we consider to be a characteristic feature of our identity and an intrinsic part of our memory. Encompassing our common principles and values, this heritage is transferable to future generations. Morocco has carried out initiatives to promote training, awareness and the acquisition of scientific competences among young people regarding those values.

On a different level, the Kingdom of Morocco has launched several anthropological studies with a view to updating the classification of intangible cultural heritage sites, as part of initiatives aimed at increasing the role and influence of our heritage. It has continued its determined efforts in this area as well as its close cooperation with UNESCO.

With that in mind, Morocco is keen to take its cooperation with UNESCO to a new level. My country will also remain strongly and responsibly engaged in international multilateral action.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Culture is not just a reflection of creativity; it is also a mirror of civilizations, a basic necessity in our day-to-day life. It provides sustenance for the soul and the intellect; it links the past with the present. Culture is also a bond between the individual and his or her community. The cultural heritage has greatly developed in today’s world. It is no longer just about historical artefacts or antiquities. It also includes customs, traditions and living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to future generations, such as oral traditions, artistic performances – even community practices. Hence the importance of preserving and enhancing the intangible heritage so that it may continue to be a frame of reference for future generations.

I want to take this opportunity to point out that in order to rise to the many challenges facing the preservation of cultural heritage, we must support the efforts made to advance scientific research, and encourage the scientists and scholars engaged in protecting our accomplishments in this regard.

I therefore call for the promotion of international multilateral cooperation concerning the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage and the exchange of experiences and ideas for its protection. We need, as well, to identify the most effective ways to raise young people’s awareness about the importance of the intangible heritage, and the need to take proper care of it as a rich, multi-faceted human legacy deeply anchored in history.

I also wish to insist on the need to digitize the rich cultural heritage of mankind, including the intangible heritage, in line with modern progress, keeping in mind the digital and technological challenges our world is facing today. And, in order to make sure our children develop an interest in the cultural heritage bequeathed by our ancestors, we must keep pace with digital transformations, and come up with precious digital content that sheds light on our cultural heritage, along with paper-based material, since both are important in this regard.

I am convinced this Committee session will provide an opportunity for the delegations of participating countries, experts and interested parties to develop an objective scientific vision, and come up with appropriate, effective proposals and recommendations to protect, promote and enhance the intangible cultural heritage.

Welcome, once again, to Morocco, your home away from home, and to its capital city, Rabat. I wish your Committee a successful conference.

Thank you.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.”

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