Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What Rhymes with UNESCOcrats?

With one hand he giveth Glasgow, UNESCO city of music status, and with the other he threatens to taketh away Edinburgh's world heritage status. The He is Koichiro Matsuura, the director-general of the UN cultural body and it seems he did notice he was in Edinburgh and he was given a walking tour of Edinburgh's Old and New towns, a Fringe performance by the Scottish Dance Theatre, a civic reception at Edinburgh City Council and a reception at Napier University for the launch of "Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland.

Now presumably this cost Edinburgh a few bob to organize and it looks like it may have backfired. Apparently Mr UNESCO believes no more decisions should be taken on key projects like Caltongate and Haymarket until the results of a year-long probe are published. A team of their inspectors will visit the capital in November after UNESCO’s world heritage committee ordered an investigation into Edinburgh's World Heritage Site. Their report is due to be published in the spring and will recommend whether Edinburgh is placed on UNESCO’s official "at risk" list of endangered sites. At risk from what? The modern world? Clearly we should be mindful and careful about developing buildings in a beautiful city like Edinburgh, but now it seems UNESCO is potentially calling the UK planning process into disrepute.

Then again does Edinburgh's status really matter? Do people choose to visit based on such an accolade? In fact how many people even now about the world heritage status? Regarding the Haymarket development Historic Scotland, the agency charged with safeguarding the nation's historic environment, had no objections. Their chief executive, said: "We don't feel we have a part to play in this process any more." But UNESCO clearly do.

Lincoln in his Gettysburg address famously said, "That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." It seems that UNESCO think otherwise. God spare us from meddling UNESCOcrats, Eurocrats and other crats who milk the gravy train. The UK contributes many millions to funding UNESCO and somehow it all seems a little wasteful if they're sending people to Edinburgh to check on World Heritage Status. Next they’ll be wanting to take away Edinburgh's UNESCO city of literature status...what do you mean you didn't know? Given UNESCO’s remit perhaps there are some more worthwhile projects in parts of the world that would benefit far more from their attention.

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