19 June 2008 : Speech by H.E. Seiichi Kondo at the Closing Session of the General Assembly of the State Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.



" Thank you, Mr. Chairman,


The ship we built in 2003 is now fully loaded with necessary equipments, including its flag that we selected yesterday, and has set on sail for a long, noble journey.


Mr. Chairman, this is a moment I have been dreaming of since I came to UNESCO as Ambassador on 20 September 2006.


This is a moment all souls of the founding fathers of Japan's 1950 Law to Protect Cultural Properties which, for the first time in human history, acknowledged and articulated the concept of ICH, have been longing for. Their aspiration of 58 years ago is now shared all over the world.

In Japan in 1950, only 5 years after the devastating war, people were all distressed, lost confidence, lost their identity, and were pre-occupied with how to find food for their children for tomorrow, or even for today.


It was against this background that the Diet unanimously passed the law to protect our traditional culture expressed in various forms, including ICH. I am sure this law gave enormous courage to our people. They knew that what people needed was not only food to eat, but equally cultural identity to be proud of.


Since then, the need to raise awareness of, to ensure respect for, and to safeguard ICH has never decreased. On the contrary, under the pressures of wars, conflicts and negative force of globalization, and social transformation, this need is even more strongly felt today.


So, this is a moment millions of communities, practitioners, individual, and many other unknown people, in both developing and developed countries, will some day appreciate, as a day when UNESCO made one of the greatest achievements in human history, to protect cultural diversity, to ensure sustainable development, thereby helping all humans regain identity, confidence, fulfilling life, and hope for future.


I am sure this Convention will help bring peace in the conflict areas, and perpetual peace in the world. Because this can only be done by building peace in the minds of men and women.

Japan is leaving this Committee, but remains fully committed to contribute to its future work. I congratulate and welcome newly elected members, and would express our admiration to Norway for its thoughtful decision.


Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your excellent stewardship, I thank Mr. Bedjaoui, Chair of the first General Assembly, for his inspiring statement, thank all the Chairs, members, and observers of Inter-governmental Committees, expert meetings, and subsidiary bodies. I thank the Secretariat, including Mme Riviere and her team, and interpreters.


I know there are hundreds of people who claim they are fathers of this success. But I congratulate the DG, as the real father of ICH. I also have to mention Mr. Smeets, and Mme Aikawa, as mothers of this great success. You may soon be physically away from us, but you will be with our heart for ever.


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. "



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