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Preparations Underway for UNESCO World Heritage Session

Preparations for the 28th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) have begun in east China's Suzhou City, said committee President Zhang Xinsheng at a press conference in Beijing Tuesday.


The WHC session is scheduled for June 28 to July 7 in Suzhou, a historic city in Jiangsu Province. It will be China's first hosting of an annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee.


Zhang, who is also vice minister of education and chairman of China National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said Chinese government departments had coordinated well to ensure the preparations for the WHC session.


China attached great importance to the conference, and all the world heritage sites and their local governments had adopted practical measures to ensure its success, he said.


China had also set up a leading group for the preparation work, headed by State Councilor Chen Zhili, who held a work meeting in Suzhou in January, and arranged for further preparations.


Exhibitions on China's world heritage projects would also be held, showing China's achievements in protecting natural and cultural heritage.


The slogan of the conference is "Protecting world heritage and promoting common development". Zhang believed the conference would play an important impact in the protection and development of world heritage in the 21st Century.


China ranks third worldwide for heritage sites


Of the 754 sites on the United Nations' World Heritage List (WHL) 29 are located in China, the third-biggest number in one country.


According to Zhang, 582 of the WHL sites are places of cultural heritage, 149 are places of natural heritage, and 23 are mixed. Of China’s 29 sites, 21 are cultural, four natural and four mixed. The most famous ones are the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Mount Taishan, Mount Huangshan and Jiuzhaigou.

In 1972, UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The Convention defines sites of cultural heritage as monuments such as architectural works, artistic works and inscriptions, cave dwellings, groups of buildings which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science, and historical sites, including archaeological sites.


For the purposes of the Convention, sites of natural heritage include natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas, as well as the natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas.


Worldwide protection urged on world heritage


Zhang Xinsheng said that the whole world should work together to protect world heritage, as it is the shared legacy of humanity.


Protection of world heritage had been one of the two most important causes of UNESCO, he said.


Since 1972, when UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 177 state parties had signed, forming a worldwide cultural and natural heritage protection movement, said Zhang.


Zhang said the World Heritage Committee, which was the most influential inter-governmental committee of UNESCO, also played an important role in world heritage protection. The committee was composed of 21 member states, and the sessions of the committee were routine meetings held once a year.


During the 27th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris last year, Zhang was elected chairman of the 28th session and then elected chairman of the World Heritage Committee in October 2003.


Zhang said 450 to 500 delegates and observers, as well as experts and functionaries of international organizations were expected to attend the session in China, a record for such a conference.


A world heritage exhibition will be held during the session. Zhang said it would offer China the opportunity to show the world its achievements in protecting world heritage.



Since its signing of the convention in 1985, China had made outstanding achievements in the protection of natural and cultural heritage.


Zhang said China had set up clear principles on heritage protection, and the country vowed to save cultural heritage on the edge of being lost and strengthen management, while strict protection and unified operation were required for natural heritage.


China also raised more money for national heritage protection and improved the relevant laws and regulations, said Zhang, adding that more international cooperation and exchanges on heritage protection also have been launched in China.


New members to be added to world heritage family


Fifty new world heritage sites will be added to the World Heritage List in the upcoming World Heritage Committee session in China, revealed Zhang.


Zhang said the session would focus on global strategies, wider protection and international cooperation.


The committee will deliberate on the world heritage sites protection and urge countries to step up protection efforts, Zhang said.


The World Heritage Committee meets annually to approve new listings and review the World Heritage sites on endangered world heritage list.


(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2004)

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