UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova speaks to China Radio International recently in Paris. [Photo: China Plus]
As preparation gets underway for next month's "Belt and Road" summit in Beijing, the head of UNESCO took some time to speak to China Radio International about what the "Belt and Road" initiative means for her organization and world heritage preservation.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said beyond promoting economics and trade, the "Belt and Road" initiative is also helping to increase cultural ties among the countries along its routes.
"I believe nowadays we need more such initiatives, in order to see how we trade, with investment, with economic ties. We see also intercultural dialogue being developed, and I believe this is an important initiative that the UNESCO commends and supports," said Bokova.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the "Belt and Road" initiative in 2013, with the main aim to promote infrastructure building, economic and social development along the ancient Silk Road and its maritime trading routes.
Bokova said currently cooperation deals have been signed among 40 countries under the initiative, while applauding the timeliness of the messages carried by the strategy in today's world.
"This is a message about exchange. This is a message about diversity. This is a message about intercultural dialogue. This is a message about prosperity and development. It is very relevant today because unfortunately, we see also extremism; we see destruction; we see a different vision of the world," added Bokova.
The UNESCO head said destruction of ancient cultural heritage sites in war-torn Iraq and Syria by extremist groups have been propelled by this "different" vision of the world, and that only promoting diversity and intercultural understanding can help prevent the further spread of extremist views.
In March, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the illegal destruction of heritage sites by extremist groups, warning that such acts could constitute war crimes.
Bokova said the "Belt and Road" initiative also fits in well with the drive by the Security Council to protect and preserve cultural relics in various parts of the world.
"I would like to thank once again, China, for supporting a major resolution of the Security Council on the protection of cultural heritage and diversity for international peace and security. I think it was a landmark decision of the Security Council, where we put on the global political agenda the importance of heritage, dialogue, intercultural dialogue and diversity. And this is also where China, with the project of 'Belt and Road,' plays such an important role," remarked Bokova.
Bokova said UNESCO will be represented at the "Belt and Road" forum in Beijing next month and will be ready to share a similar message of peace and prosperity.
"We cannot have only trade and economic investment without having an understanding and intercultural dialogue. I think this is the main meaning of President Xi Jinping's message here at UNESCO when he came a few years ago with his major, historic speech about the Silk Road, about the intercultural dialogue, about links, trade and prosperity. So this will be my message – we have to create societies, so that they are at peace with themselves, understanding others and having this intercultural competency," said Bokova.
UNESCO will be among dozens of international organizations which will have representation at next month's "Belt and Road" summit in Beijing.