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International Day of Friendship

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The International Day of Friendship is a United Nations (UN) day that promotes the role that friendship plays in promoting peace in many cultures. It is observed on July 30 each year.

Background

In 2011, the UN proclaimed the International Day of Friendship with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, and cultures can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The UN wanted for the day to involve young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.

What Do People Do?

To mark the International Day of Friendship, the UN encourages governments, organizations, and community groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that promote solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

Public Life

The International Day of Friendship is a UN observance and not a public holiday.

 

Four sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

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The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee began on 10 July in Istanbul, Turkey and will continue until 20 July. The meeting is chaired by Ambassador, Director General of Cultural Affairs and Promotion Abroad of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lale Ülker and members of the World Heritage Committee who are from several different countries.

The new sites according to the UNESCO’s website and, in the order of their inscription are: 

Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape: Part of Ningming Huashan Rock Art

Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape: Part of Ningming
Huashan Rock Art

People’s Republic of China)—Located on the steep cliffs in the border regions of southwest China, these 38 sites of rock art illustrate the life and rituals of the Luoyue people. They date from the period around the 5th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. In a surrounding landscape of karst, rivers and plateaux, they depict ceremonies which have been interpreted as portraying the bronze drum culture once prevalent across southern China. This cultural landscape is the only remains of this culture today. 

Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda, Bihar (India) – The Nalanda Mahavihara site is in the State of Bihar, in north-eastern India. It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions. 

The Persian Qanat (Islamic Republic of Iran)—Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres. The eleven qanats representing this system include rest areas for workers, water reservoirs and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution. The qanats provide exceptional testimony to cultural traditions and civilizations in desert areas with an arid climate.

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Federated States of Micronesia) – Nan Madol is a series of 99 artificial islets off the south-east coast of Pohnpei that were constructed with walls of basalt and coral boulders. These islets harbour the remains of stone palaces, temples, tombs and residential domains built between 1200 and 1500 CE. These ruins represent the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, a vibrant period in Pacific Island culture. The huge scale of the edifices, their technical sophistication and the concentration of megalithic structures bear testimony to complex social and religious practices of the island societies of the period. The site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats, notably the siltation of waterways that is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves and weakening existing edifices.

 

Amateur Archaeologists Discover Monastery

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lindisfarneExpert archaeologists are excited but not surprised that an amateur archaeologist has unearthed what is believed to be evidence of one of England’s earliest Christian monasteries in a dig on Lindisfarne. The project was supported by £25,000 which was crowd-funded by 200 donors in North East England. Sixty of people who actually donated to the project took part in the dig.

Project leader Lisa Westcott Wilkins and Project co-director Dr David Petts, of Durham University call the project a “stunning find” according to BBC. The experts believe that what has been found date from around the time the monastery was built in 635AD. The monastery was thought to be near the later medieval priory, the ruins of which remain, but there had been “no clear archaeological evidence to back this assumption up” according to BBC.

Lindisfarne is home of the 1,300-year-old Lindisfarne Gospels. Northumberland’s patron saint, St Cuthbert was an abbot of its monastery. Lindisfarne is also famous for its mead, a honey-based liqueur.

UNESCO Expanding World Heritage List

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UN cultural agency UNESCO will gather in Istanbul this month to review candidates to join its prestigious World Heritage List. There has been heightened interest as well as new discussions related to threats to heritage sites. This is due to the fact that there have been increasing terror attacks as we saw even in Istanbul just recently but also because the Islamist terrorists have been on a campaign of destruction for the last few years. Just recently Islamist terrorists blew up the ancient Nabu temple in Iraq. In 2012 a Malian jihadist blew up nine mausoleums and part of Timbuktu’s famous Sidi Yahia mosque. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the Taliban destroyed the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001.

At the meeting in Istanbul this year 29 dossiers are being considered by the World Heritage Committee, made up of 21 countries serving six-year terms. These dossiers include a dossier for the work of architect Le Corbusier, after failed attempts in 2009 and 2011 (as we reported earlier here on WCHV website), have been revamped and come with high marks from a committee of experts who evaluate the submissions. Another dossier is on the works of the Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, who created the plans for the country’s capital Brasilia. Brazil’s dossier wants Niemeyer’s modern ensemble of Pampulha, a leisure centre built in 1940 around an artificial lake at Belo Horizonte, to be inscribed on the prestigious list too. The United States of America is promoting the works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but the experts’ assessment was not encouraging according to some news outlets.

As always, the World Heritage process has often caused diplomatic friction, and objections for varying reasons. This year, Thailand has proposed its Kaeng Krachan forests for listing as a cultural site, angering neighboring Myanmar. Myanmar sent a strong letter to UNESCO stating that 34 percent of the site is in its territory. Other news outlets also report that Britain annoyed Spain by proposing the Gibraltar grottoes as a British heritage site, and Turkey has a dossier promoting the ancient ghost city of Ani, once the capital of neighboring Armenia.

Other dossiers include Canada’s Mistaken Point reserve with its 560 million-year-old fossils, Cave art dating from the 5th century BC in Zuojiang Huashan in China, the dolmens of Antequera in Spain and Gibraltar’s Neanderthal grottoes are also in contention. Among natural sites under consideration are Iran’s Loot Desert and the Revillagigedo archipelago in Mexico. The World Heritage List today has 1,031 sites in more than 163 countries.

Apart from the prestige the designation gives to a site, it can also be a boost to tourism which helps poorer countries and also in terms of receiving financial aid to preserve their sites; therefore, this is a very important designation and at times takes many years to obtain. This year the Committee will also review the status of 48 sites currently listed as “in danger”.

World Population Day 2016 Theme: Investing in teenage girls.

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2016-teenage-girlsIn 1989, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that 11 July be observed by the international community as World Population Day, a day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year’s theme is ‘Investing in teenage girls.’

Teenage girls around the world face enormous challenges. Many are considered by their communities or parents to be ready for marriage and motherhood. Many are forced from school, damaging their future prospects. Even among girls who stay in school, access to basic information about their health, human rights and reproductive rights can be hard to come by, leaving them vulnerable to illness, injury and exploitation. These challenges are exacerbated among marginalized girls, such as members of ethnic minorities or those living in poverty or remote areas. 

Yet when teenage girls are empowered, when they know about their rights and are given the tools to succeed, they become agents of positive change in their communities.

UNFPA’s programmes aim to end child marriage, curb adolescent pregnancy, and to empower girls to make informed choices about their health and lives. In 2015 alone, UNFPA programmes helped 11.2 million girls between ages 10 and 19 gain access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.

“Leaders and communities must focus on and stand up for the human rights of the most marginalized teenage girls, particularly those who are poor, out of school, exploited, or subjected to harmful traditional practices, including child marriage,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said. “Marginalized girls are vulnerable to poor reproductive health and more likely to become mothers while still children themselves. They have a right to understand and control their own bodies and shape their own lives.

(http://www.un.org/en/events/populationday/)

Abbas Kiarostami, 1940—2016

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kia-rostamiThe Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who died yesterday at the age of seventy-six, was simply one of the most original and influential directors in the history of cinema. He achieved something that few filmmakers ever have: he seemed to create a national identity with his own cinematic style. He was the first Iranian filmmaker who expanded the history of cinema not merely in a sociological sense but in an artistic one, and his tenacious, bold, restless originality—an inventive audacity that carried through to his two last features, made outside of Iran—focused the attention of the world on the Iranian cinema and opened the Iranian cinema to other directors who have followed his path.

 

(http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/postscript-abbas-kiarostami-1940-2016)