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5. In his opening address, the representative of the Director-General, Mr Mounir Bouchenaki, Assistant Director-General for Culture, spoke of the incontestable success of the World Heritage Convention. He welcomed the Kingdom of Bhutan, Samoa and Eritrea as new signatories to the Convention. The Convention would have 167 States Parties by the end of 2001. He stated that this achievement of near universality proved that the world attached special importance to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.

6. Mr Bouchenaki advised the General Assembly that Mr Peter King (Australia) had submitted a letter of resignation as Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee and apologised for not being present. Mr Bouchenaki congratulated Mr King for his work and thanked Dr Christina Cameron (Canada) who had accepted the position of Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee until the election of a new Chairperson on 1 November 2001.

7. Mr Bouchenaki stressed that the 13th General Assembly had a heavy agenda. In addition to its traditional task of electing the 7 new members of the Committee, an additional member would need to be elected because Italy had voluntarily yielded its seat after 2 years in office to give other States Parties a chance to join the Committee.

8. He noted that the General Assembly would also be examining the Statement of Accounts of the World Heritage Fund, including the status of contributions. He stated that arrears on dues to the World Heritage Fund were still outstanding from some 60 States Parties for the total sum of just over US$ 500,000. He thanked the Russian Federation and the Republic of Iran for their recent contributions that would assist in settlement of their arrears.

9. Mr Bouchenaki advised the General Assembly that determination of the amount of contributions to the World Heritage Fund, the Representivity of the World Heritage List, and follow-up actions to the Resolution on the Equitable Representation in the World Heritage Committee adopted by the 12thGeneral Assembly were also on the agenda. He noted that the General Assembly also had before it the Draft Resolution on the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan, submitted by the 25th session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee.

10. He referred to the discussions at Commission IV of the UNESCO General Conference on matters of importance to the States Parties of the World Heritage Convention: 

a. A Draft Resolution on “Crimes against the Common Heritage of Humanity”;
b. A Draft Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage;
c. The protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage;
d. A Draft Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

11. He noted that many States Parties had demonstrated their support of the World Heritage Convention by concluding special cooperation agreements with UNESCO. He thanked the Government of France for its continued support, the Governments of Italy and the Netherlands for their co-operation, as well as those States Parties cooperating through the Nordic World Heritage Office. He thanked the Governments of China and the Republic of Korea for their extrabudgetary contributions over and above their dues and paid a special tribute to the United Nations Foundation (UNF) for its important contribution of over US$8 million for the protection of natural heritage sites, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

12. Mr Bouchenaki thanked the States Parties who had supported the World Heritage Centre by providing human resources over the past two years, including Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom as well as Delft University of the Netherlands. He also thanked the recent commitment by Belgium to make available an expert for natural heritage.

13. He thanked Mr Abdelaziz Touri (Morocco), the former Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, and commended Mr Peter King (Australia) and the outgoing members of the World Heritage Committee for their services. Mr Bouchenaki then declared the thirteenth General Assembly open.