The Director-General opened, on 14 October 2003, the 14th General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.
Addressing the representatives of 176 States Parties to the 1972 Convention, Koïchiro Matsuura, after noting with pleasure the accession of 11 new States, reviewed the achievements of the past two years. He noted in particular that the strategic objectives reaffirmed on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention, had been reflected in the budget submitted to the General Conference at its 32nd session. For the Director-General, this effort towards programme concentration and the increase of the budget should serve to enhance the credibility of the World Heritage List, ensure improved conservation of World Heritage properties, foster capacity-building and, through communication, increase public awareness of, involvement in and support for World Heritage.
Koïchiro Matsuura also welcomed the fact that, during the last few years, the concept of world heritage had been broadened to include new definitions like “cultural landscapes” as well as new initiatives such as underwater cultural heritage or intangible heritage.
Concerning intangible heritage, the Director-General mentioned his “tremendous satisfaction” following the approval by the Culture Commission of the text of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which augurs well for its definitive adoption in the coming days by the General Conference. The Director-General expressed his desire that this Convention will “quickly enter into force” in order to ensure the identification and safeguarding of “an entire section of the common heritage of humanity that is particularly fragile and endangered.”
The Director-General concluded his address by expressing the wish that efforts would be made to ensure a more representative World Heritage List. In this regard, he particularly highlighted the need for the General Assembly to identify then reduce the inequalities that still exist on the List as regards both the countries not yet, or insufficiently, represented, and the type of heritage to be safeguarded. He also expressed hope that a new approach to the conservation of sites already inscribed on the List would be developed through the building of new partnerships.