Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, on the occasion of the presentation of the UNESCO World Heritage Certificate to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel on 1 June 2014

01.06.2014 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Minister of State Rhein,
Minister of State Kühne-Hörmann,
Mayor Hilgen,
Professor Küster,
Professor Weiß,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today at last I can shout it out: welcome to the club, Kassel, and especially Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe! For as of today, this beautiful park is officially on a par with many other unique masterpieces of human creation: the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India, the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Wall of China or the Acropolis in Athens. The World Heritage List includes more than 980 natural and cultural sites in over 160 countries – and now Kassel, too, with its Bergpark, is a member of this very special community.

True, it’s a little over a year since the UNESCO World Heritage Committee made the glad announcement about Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. But today makes its inscription on the World Heritage List completely official. And as Minister of State for Europe, but with my roots firmly in northern Hesse, I am particularly pleased to be here today, back near my home, and to hand over to you on behalf of the Federal Government the UNESCO World Heritage Certificate.

I am proud to think that the splendour of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe will now shine out into the world as an example of the cultural diversity that exists in Germany and north Hesse. After all, north Hesse has a great deal more culture to offer: documenta here in Kassel, the Bad Hersfeld Festival, the Grimm Homeland North Hesse or the Open Flair Festival in Eschwege, for example.

We owe this gathering here today to the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by UNESCO in 1972. A total of 190 states have signed the Convention in the meantime, making it the most important international instrument ever adopted for the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage.

The Convention aims to protect artistic masterpieces and unique landscapes whose destruction would be an irreplaceable loss for humanity. Protecting these is not merely the responsibility of an individual state, but rather a task for the entire international community.

The World Heritage List is a unique instrument which beats all other international resolutions, recommendations and charters designed to protect our natural and man-made heritage. Why? Because the World Heritage Convention treats protection, preservation and upkeep not as a list of restrictive rules and regulations, but as something to be highlighted, admired and made visible to the world at large. Inclusion on the World Heritage List has become a highly-regarded label with a huge attraction for tourists, as I’m quite sure you will see here in Kassel soon.

And we will be delighted if even more visitors come to the Bergpark to gaze in wonder at the summer water features, the Hercules monument, the palace or the Löwenburg.

But Germany has much to be thankful to UNESCO for, not just the World Heritage Convention and our 38 World Heritage sites. Our country has now been a member of UNESCO for over 60 years. The admission of the young Federal Republic of Germany on 11 July 1951 meant the start of a new era and the end of post-war isolation.

“That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” – this sentence from the preamble to the 1945 UNESCO Constitution is as true today as it has ever been.

International cooperation across borders within the framework of UNESCO in all areas of cultural life is the correct lesson to have learnt from the experience of two horrific World Wars. Education, science and culture: with these focuses, UNESCO is simply predestined to establish a real dialogue among nations and thus to create the spiritual basis for worldwide peace.

To Germany, UNESCO has never simply been one of many international organisations. More than that, to us it has always been a community of shared values, something which is more important than ever in this age of globalisation and change. As States Parties, we must work together to ensure that these shared values are preserved. As a forum for education, science and culture, UNESCO must continue to be open to those nations which, like the fledgling Federal Republic all those years ago, are daring to launch themselves into a new age.

In the post-war era, UNESCO was crucial in helping Germany to develop a cultural identity, to establish democratic rule of law structures and to strengthen citizen participation. And it strengthened the consensus in society that freedom and democracy can only be guaranteed through international cooperation and respect for cultural diversity.

Germany’s commitment to UNESCO manifests itself particularly through the World Heritage sites. The World Heritage Convention is, without doubt, the best-known UNESCO programme here and throughout the world. As a member of the World Heritage Committee, Germany is particularly committed to the sustainable management of natural and cultural sites, helping to preserve monuments at particular risk. I can tell you about one such success story from Africa: the precious manuscripts from the World Heritage site Timbuktu, the intellectual and spiritual centre of Mali, have been rescued with German help and can now be restored.

The international solidarity displayed when it comes to preserving the world’s cultural and natural riches is based on the simple realisation that neither culture nor nature stops at national borders. Recognition of one’s own cultural and natural heritage is so very closely linked with recognition and awareness of the cultural achievements and natural treasures of other countries and regions around the world.

Since its inscription on the World Heritage List a year or so ago, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel has benefited from this mutual attention and appreciation.

On behalf of UNESCO and the Federal Republic of Germany as a State Party to the World Heritage Convention, I am honoured and delighted to officially present Germany’s 38th World Heritage site with its World Heritage Certificate.

The Hercules monument here in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a symbolic figure not only for Kassel. It is now also a reminder that we must live up to UNESCO’s premise: unfettered exchange of ideas in words and pictures, and peaceful intercultural dialogue, are key to maintaining peace and security around the world. Let us work together to master this Herculean task. It certainly won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Hercules showed us the way!

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe has been inscribed on the World Heritage List. It is now part of humanity’s heritage. Congratulations!

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