Mr President! Excellencies! Ladies and gentlemen!
During its 38th session in Doha, the capital von Qatar, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added 26 new sites to the World Heritage List. The Okavango Delta in Botswana was among the highlights. It is my great pleasure to send you my best wishes to mark this occasion.
This is a significant moment for your country and the entire world. The Okavango Delta is of outstanding universal value. It is one of very few major interior delta systems, flowing neither into a sea nor into an ocean. And as Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, I would point out what excellent news it is for UNESCO that the Okavango Delta of all places has become the 1000th inscription on the World Heritage List.
I congratulate Botswana on this achievement – the government, the experts and the people in equal measure. The recognition of the Okavango Delta as a UNESCO World Heritage Site will spread the beauty of the country, and your pride in it, all over the world. The eyes of the world will be drawn to your country. Allow me to wish you the best of luck in preserving this World Heritage Site.
One of the goals I have set myself as chairperson of the upcoming 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, to be held in Bonn, Germany, in June 2015, is to spotlight even more the rich heritage of the African continent. I therefore wish to encourage all countries in Africa to follow the example of Botswana and to embark on the long and complex but ultimately worthwhile road of UNESCO World Heritage nomination and inscription. There is a quotation attributed to Nelson Mandela: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” The Okavango Delta is one of those unaltered places, and I am sure Africa has many more.
I hope that I will be able to visit Botswana before the upcoming session of the World Heritage Committee, to travel in your country and see for myself the unique qualities of the 1000th World Heritage Site.