Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the UNESCO Conference on Culture and Development in Hangzhou, China

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the UNESCO Conference on Culture and Development in Hangzhou, ChinaMadame Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO,
Honorable Ministers,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

My warmest thanks go to all of you who have received us so generously here in Hangzhou, our Chinese hosts and our many friends from UNESCO.

I am honoured by your invitation, and pleased for this opportunity to talk about two subjects that are very close to my heart — culture and development.

UNESCO is to be saluted for keeping the work of cultural development high on the international agenda. And I also want to recognise the important work that China has been doing, in cooperation with UNESCO and through its own advances in cultural development. It is indeed striking to realise how many of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites are here in China, with this beautiful city of Hangzhou high among them. We are deeply pleased to be here.

I referred to culture and development a moment ago as two separate subjects. In fact, as your participation here attests, they are inextricably linked. It was not so long ago, however, that culture and development were not thought to be so compatible. “Cultural heritage” was often seen as a potential drain on fragile economies, even a barrier to modernisation. The closer linking of culture with development grew initially, I believe, out of an increasing respect for the pluralism of developing societies. We came to recognise, as UNESCO has emphasised, that “one size simply does not fit all”. And cultural diversity has thus become part of the development equation.

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Related Press Release: http://www.akdn.org/Content/1181

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