Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

Message from Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage: "Audiovisual Heritage as a Witness of Cultural Identity"

The UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage was held on October 27, 2008, “a day for reflecting on the power of film, television, and radio to transmit ideas and information and in so doing to nurture dialogue among and between communities around the world.”

For the occasion, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura delivered a message on the theme of "Audiovisual Heritage as a Witness of Cultural Identity."

Mr. Matsuura opened his speech by stating that “While heritage permits us to understand the past, it also reflects the cultural identities and diversity of communities living today, with audiovisual heritage, in particular, being a primary means for contemporary societies to portray their values and express their creativity.”

In 2008, the International Year of Languages, stated Mr. Matsuura, “the development of local television and radio content, as well as the ability to access different cultures and perspectives through national and international channels are particularly important in this regard as they further enrich global diversity and open paths to dialogue, but while the role of audiovisual records in bridging gaps is indisputable, the format is intrinsically fragile and their disappearance would mean the loss of a significant portion of our global heritage, along with the memory and identity of the people it depicts. […] It was in part this fragility that led the 33rd session of UNESCO’s General Conference to declare a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.”

“Preservation of heritage entails major efforts where printed and written documents are concerned, but,” said Mr. Matsuura, “audiovisual records are far more endangered—and on a larger scale—than conventional carriers.” Mr. Matsuura also stated that their preservation is affected by factors as diverse as the spontaneous ignition of nitrate films or the vinegar syndrome of acetate film, bacterial or fungal infestations, color fading or sound deterioration, sticky tape syndrome or demagnetization and technical obsolescence, as well as lack of legislation and training curricula for professional or technical staff.

The Director-General continued by stating, “Consequently, there is an urgent need not only for greater awareness of these issues, but also for the allocation of the human and financial resources for preservation so that future generations may benefit from the legacies of the past. Without concerted action, this heritage is doomed, and with it, the existence of some indigenous communities whose voices now live on only through audiovisual recordings made before their world vanished.”

In closing, Mr. Matsuura declared, “On this, the second World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, I call upon UNESCO’s partners and friends: governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to work with us to ensure that audiovisual heritage receives the recognition it deserves both as a witness of cultural identity and a custodian of the world’s cultural and linguistic diversity.”

For the full text of Mr. Matsuura’s message, visit the UNESCO website