A conference to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Koichiro Matsuura in Paris

On May 18, a conference took place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Koichiro Matsuura, who was the director general of UNESCO during 1999-2009.

First Vice-president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva attended the event.

Mehriban Aliyeva addressed the conference:

-  Madam Chairperson of the General Conference,

-  Dear Mister Matsuura,

-  Dear Irina Bokova,

-  Your Excellencies, esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I want to thank for the invitation, and I am very glad to be among my colleagues and friends.

Let me, congratulate you, dear Mister Matsuura, on your 80th anniversary, and wish you sound health and successes.

The work done under your leadership at UNESCO deserves the best appreciation. Thanks to your reforms, you have managed to not only maintain, but also increase the popularity of UNESCO among other international organizations. Your name is always noted when talking about many successful humanitarian projects and, in particular, the international Education for All Program.

Under your leadership, the relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO became even stronger. With a deep appreciation, we remember your visits to Baku and your personal participation in joint forums, and conferences. You have participated in the opening of the first international festival – the World of Mugham. In your presence, we laid down the foundations of the International Mugham Centre and the State Museum of Azerbaijani Carpet. Together, we opened the Museum of Modern Art. Today, these cultural centres are among much visited places of our capital.

In 2007, we signed a document on joint implementation of project to develop vocational education in Azerbaijan. Then, in 2009, we signed the Agreement on Cooperation to ensure the strategic goals in protecting intangible cultural heritage.

During your term in the office, our historical monuments, such as Icherisheher, the Palace of Shirvanshahs, the Maiden Tower, as well as petroglyphs in Gobustan were entered on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage. Mugham and the art of ashyg - treasures of our music - have been entered on the Representative List of the World Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In 2004, thanks to your endeavours, I was honoured with the title of a goodwill ambassador of UNESCO, and since then, I have done my best to justify your confidence. Dear Mister Matsuura, we highly appreciate your personal endeavours towards strengthening the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and UNESCO.

Commencement of our cooperation goes back to the year 1992. Azerbaijan became a member of this reputable organization right after it regained its state independence. Ever since, Azerbaijan has joined most conventions and other legal documents, having ratified them. Today, being actively represented at the organization and making our contribution, we are participating in the implementation of UNESCO programmes. In 2013, Azerbaijan and UNESCO signed the Framework Agreement on Cooperation in the fields of culture, science, educations and communication. Thus, Azerbaijan became a member to the family of donor countries, and whereby, started to actively support UNESCO’s programmes and projects. We are taking pride in this. Among other issues, I would like to mention our modest contribution to achieving quality education in African countries.

Dear friends, located at the heart of the ancient Silk Way, Azerbaijan has a long history as a place where opinions are shared, and people get together in a friendly environment. As a country where civilizations, cultures and religions come together, Azerbaijan may offer a number of things to the international society in terms of intercultural dialogue, tolerance towards and respect for others. Today, multiculturalism is Azerbaijan’s state policy, and we have been cooperating with the international society, including UNESCO, in the promotion of multiculturalism values.

Here, I would like to mention the “Baku Process”, initiated by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, which has turned into a true platform for promoting dialogue between cultures and religions. First of all, it was put forward as a platform of cooperation between the countries – members of the Council of Europe and the Islamic Cooperation Organization. In 2008, as a member of both these international organizations, Azerbaijan hosted a meeting of culture ministers of countries – members of the Council of Europe and the Islamic Cooperation Organization. This process is continuing to date. This year, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Baku Process. In close cooperation with UNESCO, we have successfully hosted four world forums in the framework of the Baku Process, and we are ready to continue this work.

Human potential’s advancement is another area which UNESCO and Azerbaijan have been attaching a great importance to. Quality education and culture are basic elements for human’s advancement, and taking this into account, Azerbaijan put forward its candidacy to host “Expo 2025” World Exhibition in Baku, for which Azerbaijan chose the theme “Developing human capital, building a better future”. If our proposal wins, we hope to bring the whole world to Baku and create a truly universal platform for exchange of dialogue and cooperation.

Azerbaijan, making direct contribution to preservation of the world’s cultural heritage and proactive humanitarian policy, has demonstrated its close association with UNESCO’s values and ideals. Let me, to bring a few examples. By constructing a new school building for girls in Muzaffarabad city of Pakistan in 2005, in order to remove the outcome of the horrible earthquake, Azerbaijan made great contribution to the international society’s endeavours. In 2011, based on an agreement made with UNESCO, we participated in the restoration of Haiti’s cultural heritage, which suffered from an earthquake. Azerbaijan’s charitable activities, aiming to represent and restore the world’s cultural heritage, have covered the Berlin Castle, ancient monuments in the Versailles, the Louvre, medieval manuscripts at the Vatican archives, Philosophers Hall in the Capitoline Museum of Rome, catacombs of Saint Marcellus and Peter, catacombs of San Sebastian, Zeus Statue, Sistine Hall in Pio Clementino Museum of Vatican, Trapezitsa Museum in Bulgaria and other such activities in a number of countries.

Dear Friends, I can talk a lot about our achievements, and Mr. Matsuura’s successful leadership of UNESCO. I know that other colleagues too will have many thoughts to share with us this morning. In conclusion, I would like to underscore Mister Matsuura’s exclusive humane qualities. From my experience, I can say that he is such a person who brings peace to the thoughts of men and women by his personal level and, therefore, his role in the promotion of UNESCO values and ideals is extremely valuable. I feel truly joyful and am very proud of having known such a personality, remembering pleasant recollections of our perfect friendship and cooperation. Mister Matsuura, it has always been very pleasant for me to work with you, and this was a practice of learning. I hope to see you again in the future, and want to wish sound health and happiness to you and your family. Looking forward to seeing you soon in Azerbaijan. Thank you.