Late in the evening on Monday, 26 October, Estonia was chosen to be a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by the General Assembly of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, which includes 186 countries.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that Estonia wishes to have increasingly more participation in discussions in the UN and its sub-organisations. “Estonia’s priorities in UNESCO are tied to appreciating and protecting the world’s physical and spiritual heritage. Becoming a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee gives us a very good opportunity to do this,” stated Paet.
The primary responsibility of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is to ensure the preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Estonia will participate in the work of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for four years with an expert group, which will be led by Academy of Arts professor Mart Kalm and Urve Sinijärv of the Ministry of the Environment. Professor Mart Kalm said, “It is wonderful that other countries feel that Estonia has knowledge and skills related to protecting cultural heritage that can be utilised all over the world. This is a challenge for Estonia.”
Estonia was chosen out of 30 candidates along with 10 other new members as part of the rotation made every two years in the 21-member committee. The other new members are Ethiopia, Iraq, Cambodia, the Republic of South Africa, Mali, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Thailand and Russia. The new members were chosen to replace the committee members whose membership period is ending.
As of September 2009, there are 890 objects in 141 nations on the World Heritage list. Estonia has been on the list since 1997 for Tallinn’s Old Town and since 2005 for the Struve geodetic arc, which was proposed by ten countries in co-operation.
Estonia’s candidacy was organised by the Foreign Ministry and the Estonian embassies, the Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of the Environment, and the Estonian National Commission for UNESCO.
The General Assembly of the countries belonging to the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is taking place in Paris from 23-28 October.
UNESCO World Heritage homepage: http://whc.unesco.org
Estonia Chosen as Member of UNESCO World Heritage Committee