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UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, concluded her first official visit to Islamic Republic of Iran from 25 to 30 April. In this visit she met with the President of the Islamic Republic, Hassan Rouhani.

During the meeting, President Rouhani, recalled the long-lasting relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and UNESCO and declared “Nowadays, world challenges are more universal and call for an increased role for UNESCO”. He went on to recall his initiative entitled WAVE presented at the United Nations General Assembly in the fall last year, aimed at countering violence and extremism through an enhanced cultural dialogue amongst nations.

“Your message at the United Nations General Assembly resonates strongly with UNESCO’s mandate to construct the defenses of peace in the minds of men”, declared Irina Bokova. The Director-General further stated that her visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran marked a renewed commitment to strengthen the longstanding cooperation between UNESCO and the country.

On the first day of her visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNESCO Director General met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif.  On the sideline of a ceremony to celebrate the inscription of the 7 items of the Islamic Republic of Iran inscribed on UNESCO Memory of the World register, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director-General Irina Bokova discussed the critical role of culture in advancing peaceful coexistence across the region.

The Director-General was the keynote speaker at the country’s oldest and most prestigious university on the theme “the role and raison d’être of UNESCO in contemporary societies”.

Irina Bokova also met with H.E. Prof. Reza Faraji Dana, Minister of Science, Research and Technology, and ex-officio Chairman of the Iranian National Commission to UNESCO. The meeting continued through an interactive exchange with scholars, scientists and representatives of the Ministry of Science and Research, featuring presentations on the 4 Category II Centres in the field of Natural Sciences under UNESCO auspices.

Irina Bokova commended Iran for its active engagement in the area of natural sciences, especially water management, stressing the growing need for the sharing of best practices and knowledge across all regions of the world to fight major challenges, such as global warming and desertification. In that context, she praised the unique research conducted through the traditional hydraulic systems of the Qanats in Yazd.

During her meeting with H.E. Mr. Ali Asghar Fani, Minister of Education, the Director-General reaffirmed the importance of investing in quality education — teacher training being one of the cornerstones in that respect.

During her stay in Iran, UNESCO Director-General also visited world heritage sites in Bam Citadel, Takhte Jamshid and Meydane Naghshe Jahan, Sheikh Lotfollah and Jame Mosques. She also paid a visit to Isfahan Science and Technology Town which host a UNESCO Category II Centre working on Science Parks and Technology Business Incubators.

During the last day of her visit, the Director-General held bilateral meetings with the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), H.E. Mr. Masoud Soltanifar; the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, H.E. Dr. Ali Janati; and the Minister of Energy, H.E. Mr. Hamid Chitchian.


All meetings emphasized Iran’s commitment to become an active player in the development of the region, thereby fostering peace and stability. The already existing strong ties between Iran and its neighboring countries, especially Afghanistan and Tajikistan, were said to provide privileged opportunities in advancing joint cooperation — in cultural heritage preservation, capacity-building and training, in the development of cultural industries and crafts, as well as in the area of water management through development of an integrated and comprehensive water management strategy within the region.

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