Tokyo, 7 September 2007:

Closing Statement by H.E. Mr. Seiichi Kondo, Chairperson of the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Distinguished Delegates,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Let me first congratulate you all, from the bottom of my heart, for the great achievement you have made during the past week here in Tokyo.


“The ICH,” the ship we are all on board, was substantially equipped, in this dockyard of Odaiba, Tokyo Bay, with sails, rudders, a steering wheel, and other essential equipments necessary for sail.

Upon the whistle by the General Assembly next year, the ship will weigh anchor and set sail for a journey with the noble objective of safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of the world: a journey that hundreds of millions of communities, practitioners and individuals on all continents, sub-continents and islands have been longing for years and years.


It is of historical significance that our ship, “The ICH,” was equipped for a journey to the world here in Odaiba, because in 1853, immediately after the surprise visit by American Black Ships lead by Commodore Perry, the Tokugawa Shogunate built a series of six fortresses in order to protect Tokyo from possible invasion by the Western colonial powers. Odaiba literally means “cannon batteries on islands.” Today this place is a symbol of openness and the spirit of international co-operation. This remarkable shift from a closed feudalistic society to an open, internationally- minded city in a short period of time is a miracle in Japanese history. I call the spirit that generated this change an Odaiba spirit.


There is an enormous diversity of views and positions among the Committee Members, States Parties and other participants, on various important issues. I witnessed heated debates,.going on for hours and hours until late at night in the working group meetings and corridors. In view of this, our achievement seems to be a miracle.  


But this miracle did not happen by accident. It is the openness and readiness to listen to others created by an admirable professionalism, a profound commitment to the noble objective of the Convention, and a burning passion that enabled you to overcome differences and anxieties caused by uncertainty. This is exactly the spirit that changed Odaiba into such an open and international island.


I would be more than happy if the air of Tokyo, the birth place of the concept of intangible cultural heritage, inspired you and if the smile of the people in Tokyo, in particular the young volunteers around you, reminded you of the value of the spirit of “Wa,” the traditional Japanese spirit of harmony and compromise, and encouraged you to join the consensus in the meeting

But here I have to emphasize that we should not forget about what had been done by our predecessors. It was numerous ship-carpenters who have laid important ground for our achievement, under the able stewardship of Director-General Matsuura, H.E. Mr. Bedjaoui, chairs of Committee meetings, expert meetings and their bureau members.


Some of the key ship-carpenters are here with us. Mme Riviere, Mme Aikawa, Mr. Smeets and his team, the Legal Advisor, secretaries and interpreters. The value of their contributions is immeasurable and incomparable.


I think I am such a lucky man. I happened to be sitting in this chair, when you did such a wonderful job. What I did was small. I was not one of the best traffic police officers, but I can at least say that while sitting here for five days, I always kept five principles in mind. These are the five commandments given by my father. They are:

1.  Do you always have utmost sincerity?

2. Do you always do your best?

3. Are you always faithful to your words?

4.Do you always keep maximum courtesy to others?

5.Are you always of utmost diligence?

These were the spiritual slogans of the Japanese Imperial Navy.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The ship is now ready to set sail, but our work never ends. There are many more things to do before departure. We have many more things to do after the departure. We have to make a flag for the ship and hoist it to raise awareness. We have to build more life boats to save intangible cultural heritage in danger of disappearance. We may face a totally unexpected situation when we get into uncharted waters. We might find ourselves in the midst of another typhoon.


I welcome and admire Turkey’s and Bulgaria’s kind offer and courage to host the next sessions. Let us maintain the momentum by keeping the Odaiba spirit and mutual trust that we have further developed in Tokyo. We are at a crucial moment. We should not miss this opportunity.

Let me conclude my remarks by quoting four lines from Shakespeare:  

There is a tide in the affaires of men,
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;  
Omitted, all the voyage of their life,  
Is found in shallows and miseries.

Thank you very much for your attention."



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