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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (U.N.E.S.C.O.)
Greece is among the twenty founding member states that signed the Charter for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which was adopted during the London Conference in November 1945 and entered into force on 4 November 1946.
Our country participates actively in the shaping and implementation of policies related to the Organization’s fundamental actions, including qualitative education, combating illiteracy, promoting bioethics and the ethics of science and social transformations, predicting and tackling natural disasters in vulnerable regions.
Greece lends particular support to UNESCO’s efforts for the protection of World Heritage through the implementation of the relevant Conventions that have been ratified with a view to strengthening intercultural dialogue in order to avert conflicts and consolidate peace, and to protect and promote cultural diversity.
Greece’s Cultural Diplomacy is aimed at highlighting, promoting and capitalizing on a pan-human system of values for inter-state relations, which is founded on the ecumenical nature of Hellenic Culture. More specifically, within the framework of UNESCO:
a) Greece puts particular emphasis on the functioning of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP), in which the Foreign Ministry is represented through its Special Legal Service, and participates in the ongoing negotiations with the British side regarding the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, which UNESCO has been addressing since 1984, when then Culture Minister Melina Mercouri submitted the Greek demand to the aforementioned Intergovernmental Committee.
Within the framework of the latest meeting of the aforementioned Intergovernmental Committee (Paris, 1-2 October 2014), Greece and Great Britain negotiated a new Recommendation that was subsequently adopted by the Committee’s General Conference. The important difference between this year’s Recommendation and older ones lies in its calling on the British side to examine the Greek proposal for the opening of an official Mediation process, providing, at the same time, for UNESCO’s assistance so that further meetings can take place between the two sides for the resolution of the issue. The above special mention is the result of the representations of the former Culture Minister to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova (August 2013), for the activation, through her good offices, of the organization’s official Mediation process. This year, for the first time, member states of the Committee, as well as states with observer status on the Committee, praised this initiative and supported the just Greek demand, thus indicating a dynamic that has already been created in favor of reuniting the Parthenon Marbles; a dynamic of which both Great Britain and the international community must take note.
b) During the second meeting of the member states of the 1970 UN Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which took place at the Organization’s headquarters on 20-21 June 2012, a new Intergovernmental Committee was set up, Subsidiary to the meeting of the parties to the Convention, for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating its implementation. One year later, in July 2013, the 18 members of the Subsidiary Committee in question were elected, with Greece receiving the most votes. During the first meeting of the Subsidiary Committee, the Foreign Ministry representative was elected to the Committee’s Bureau, as Rapporteur. Greece’s election confirms its international recognition for its activity in preventing and combating illegal trafficking and acquisition of cultural treasures and property, which is accompanied by transfer of know-how to all state parties to the Convention. Following a Foreign Ministry initiative, our country will be hosting the extraordinary spring meeting of the Committee in question, in April 2015.
c) In December 2013, our country was elected, with the highest number of votes, to the Intergovernmental Committee that is the organ of the 2nd Protocol (1999) to the Hague Convention (1954) on the protection of cultural property in case of an armed conflict.
d) In the sector of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Greece implements the relevant Convention of 2003, having to this end set up a National Scientific Committee, with the participation of the Foreign Ministry’s E1 Directorate for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and having already collaborated with other Euro-Mediterranean partners towards the recognition of the Mediterranean Diet as intangible cultural heritage of humanity. In accordance with the decisions of the Convention’s relevant organs, Greece also puts particular emphasis on the joint future promotion of candidacies together with other, mainly neighbouring countries, for listing of common elements of intangible heritage and customs in the relevant Lists of the Convention.