12 May 2016 - UNESCO participates in Third International ECO- Silk Road Food Festival in Zanjan Province

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The third “International ECO-Silk Road Food Festival” was held in Zanjan, Iran on 10-12 May 2017, within the framework of the International Year of Tourism for Sustainable Development.

The Festival was hosted by Zanjan Provincial Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization and co-organized with the ECO Secretariat. The Food festival attracted representatives from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey as well as Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

The UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office participated in the Festival and show-cased its publications and activities in culture and tourism at the exhibition space. Several NGOs and a sizeable number of local restaurants and handicrafts producers also participated in the exhibition this year.

Mr. Ahsan Ali Mangi, Deputy Secretary General of ECO, Mr. Namvar Motlagh, Handicrafts Deputy of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), and the Governor of Zanjan all delivered speeches during the opening ceremony of the Festival, which was presided over by H.E. Ms. Zahara Ahmadipur, Vice- President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of ICHHTO.

In his statement the ECO Deputy Secretary-General praised the Festival and said that revival of the Ancient Silk Road would contribute to the development of the tourism industry in the ECO Region.

The Festival was attended by several members of the Iranian Parliament and other high-ranking officials, as well as ambassadors and diplomats based in Tehran.

To learn more about UNESCO’s work in cultural heritage and sustainable tourism, please see: http://whc.unesco.org/en/tourism/

For more information about our Silk Road activities, please see: http://en.unesco.org/silkroad/


5 May 2017 - Qeshm Island becomes UNESCO Global Geopark

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Paris, 05 May—Eight sites demonstrating the great diversity of our planet’s geology have received the UNESCO Global Geopark label on 5 May, when UNESCO’s Executive Board endorsed the decisions made by the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council during its first session in Torquay, UK, last September.

UNESCO Global Geoparks are territories that promote geodiversity through community-led initiatives to enhance regional sustainable development. They help monitor and promote awareness of climate change and natural disasters and many of them help local communities prepare disaster mitigation strategies.

With this year’s eight additions, the world network now numbers 127 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 35 countries. They celebrate the 4.6-billion-year history of our planet and the geodiversity that has shaped every aspect of our lives and societies. Furthermore, Geoparks create opportunities for sustainable tourism, whose importance has been recognized by the United Nations, which named 2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The eight newly designated sites are:

Qeshm Island (Iran)

Qeshm Island UNESCO Global Geopark is an island shaped like a dolphin in the Strait of Hormuz, off the southern coast of Iran. Its exposed geological formations have been shaped by erosion generating a range of spectacular landscapes and beautiful rock deserts. Its preservation is supported by green tourism activities managed by local communities.

Arxan (China)

Arxan is a mid-low mountain region situated in China’s Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. With 35 well-exposed volcanoes that are over 2.5million years old, Arxan features an exceptionally dense concentration of volcanic landforms, with a rich variety of lakes and natural springs.  The UNESCO Global Geopark has developed extensive sustainable rural tourism services which offer the visitor a rare and unusual experience of a northern Chinese frontier area.

Causses du Quercy (France)

The Causses du Quercy UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the southwest of France, at the northern end of the Midi-Pyrénées region. It features a unique karst heritage shaped by a unique geological history that led to the formation of phosphate caves containing thousands of perfectly preserved fossils that recorded life conditions 52 to 20 million years ago. It makes this area a true “natural evolution laboratory”. The study of these fossils is part of a participatory science education programme, Graines de paléontologues ("paleontologists seeds") for elementary and secondary school students.

Cheongsong (Republic of Korea)

Cheongsong UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the central eastern area of the Republic of Korea. Its name is derived from “Cheongbo” and “Songsang,” meaning “green treasure” and “pine tree ecology,” respectively. The volcanic rocks in Cheongsong have exceptionally high silica content, which caused the hot lava that flowed from the area’s volcanos to form balls of dark and light layers as it cooled down. This has resulted in a unique and beautiful type of rock, locally called the Flower Stone.

Comarca Minera, Hidalgo (Mexico)

The Comarca Minera, Hidalgo UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the State of Hidalgo, to the east of central Mexico, The Geopark’s most remarkable geological feature are the Prismas Basalticos, basalt or volcanic rock columns, first described in 1804 by Alexander von Humboldt, the Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer. The 2.58-million-year-old Prismas Basalticos are exceptionally tall, some over 40 metres in height. They are the most famous basalt columns in Mexico and among the tallest in the world.

Keketouhai (China)

Keketuohai UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, in the inland area of Central Asia. With its spectacular granite landforms, the Geopark has sometimes been referred to as China’s Yosemite. The mainly Kazak inhabitants of the area have a rich history and culture preserved through many distinct local traditions. The site also features the unique Botamaoyin rock paintings, which are at least 3,000 years old.

Las Loras (Spain)

The Las Loras UNESCO Global Geopark is located in Spain, north of Castile and León. Its high altitude limestone moorlands, Loras, are characterized by mountainous folds of earth separated by spectacular river canyons. They dominate a spectacular landscape of natural fortresses that have been used by successive populations and cultures for refuge and protection throughout history. The area is dotted by caves, limestone cliffs, and karst landscapes resembling ruins with countless waterfalls. The well-preserved small villages of Las Loras have fine Romanesque churches, rock hermitages and examples of popular local architecture.

Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca (Mexico)

The Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca UNESCO Global Geopark is located in Mexico’s mountainous Sierra Madre del Sur province. The name of the Geopark is derived from the Mixteca civilization, which flourished from the 2ndcentury BC to the 15th century AD and ended with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in the early 16thcentury. The UNESCO Global Geopark features trails along which visitors guided by local residents can examine the geological heritage of the region and its relation to ecological, historical, archaeological and cultural features.

The Executive Board of UNESCO also endorsed two requests for substantial extensions to two existing UNESCO Global Geoparks in China: Leiqiong and Zigong 



30 April 2017 - 1st Virtual Water International Conference takes place in Tehran

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On 29-30 April 2017, the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (CCIMA) organized a two-day conference in Tehran to highlight the value of Virtual Water to address impacts of climate change, population growth and food security at national, regional and global levels.

The Conference, supported by UNESCO, focused in particular on the effective use of water in agriculture and looked at means to enhance policies, investments and governance to sustainably increase water and land productivity. Participants discussed tools for strategic planning of optimal and sustainable allocation of scarce water resources, and a regional collaborative strategy for a water-reform agenda.

Key speakers in the opening session included Mr. M.H. Shariatmadar, Head of National Agriculture and Water Strategic Research Center and Head of Executive Committee of the conference; Dr. Taheri, Senior HSE Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Head of Scientific Committee of the Conference; Mr. Gh. Shafei, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce; H.E. Dr. V.A. Araqchi, Deputy Foreign Minister for International and Legal Affairs; Ms. Yvette Daoud, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the kingdom of the Netherlands; Mr. Serge Nakouzi, FAO Representative in the Islamic Republic of Iran; H.E. Mr. M. Hojjati, Minister of Jihad Agriculture; Prof. A. Hoekstra (by video) of the University of Twente, Netherlands; Mr. A. Keshavraz, Deputy Minister of Agriculture; and Prof. T. Allan (video) of the Department of Geography of King's College London, UK.

“Because the virtual water theory can encounter many complications and has considerable details, it is imperative that a precise and inclusive study is undertaken regarding its potential consequences,” said Mr. Shariatmadar.

Mr. Abbas Keshavarz said the first step to implement the virtual water theory was to create a national consensus over it.

“All the weak and strong points of the theory must be identified first so that we can successfully implement it,” he said, stressing that the final cost and efficiency of water usage will be key factors.

Virtual water refers to the hidden flow of water when food or other commodities are traded. For instance, it takes 1,600 cubic meters of water on average to produce one metric ton of wheat. The precise volume can be more or less depending on climatic conditions, agricultural practice and food trading.

Mr. Serge Nakouzi, FAO Representative to Iran, warned that water availability in the Middle East and North Africa region decreased by about 65 percent during the last 40 years and was expected to fall by another 50 percent by 2050.

In parallel to the Conference, a workshop was held with the topic “Role Play on Globalization of Water Management; Interactive Learning about Water Footprint and Virtual Water Trade”. The workshop looked at the global dimension of water management through trading of water-intensive products including trans-border externalities (i.e. the import of water-intensive commodities contributes to water scarcity and reduced environmental water flows in other countries); the concept of comparative advantage applied to water (i.e. a country can profit from exporting water-intensive commodities for which it has relatively high water productivity and importing commodities for which it requires relatively a lot of water per unit); and national water self-sufficiency versus water-dependency.

For more information about the conference, please see: http://virtualwaterconf.com/index.php/en-uk/



29 April 2017 - UNESCO Tehran co-organize an Expert Meeting in Celebration of Global Action Week for Education

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On 29 April 2017, the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO jointly organized an expert meeting on the theme of Citizen Participation in Achieving Inclusive, Quality and Continuous Education in celebration of the 2017 Global Action Week for Education (GAWE).

GAWE is an international annual campaign led by the Global Campaign for Education, with support from UNESCO, to raise awareness on the importance of education for achieving sustainability and the commitments made by all to reach the global education goal by 2030.

This year’s theme of Accountability for SDG4 and Citizen Participation highlighted the importance of participatory governance for delivering on the full SDG4 agenda.

From 23 to 29 April 2017, the GAWE campaign promoted the vital role of citizen participation in education policy making and monitoring progress.

The expert meeting brought together representatives from government, the diplomatic community, civil society, academia, UN agencies, and the private sector. 

In his opening remarks, Mr. Ali Zarafshan, Vice-Minister for Secondary Education of the Ministry of Education (MOE) underscored that MOE should not be the only entity responsible for education. “In Chapter 6 of the Fundamental Reform Document of Education of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is mentioned that the participation and accountability of citizens, families, the private sector, national and local authorities, and the media should be reinforced and institutionalized,” said Mr. Zarafshan.

Mr. Zarafshan also quoted from the UNESCO publication Rethinking Education: Toward a global common good?, pointing out that “the educational landscape has changed considerably and is now characterized by an increasing involvement of non-state actors, including for-profit organizations”.

Dr. Sadollah Nasiri Gheydari, Secretary General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO emphasized the importance of increasing teacher salaries as well as attracting the best and the brightest to the teaching profession as effective strategies to achieve global peace and prevent conflict.

In addition, Dr. Nasiri stressed that “the Education for All (EFA) agenda was not achieved by 2015. In order to meet the new education goal by 2030, an additional USD 22 billion per year and 69 million teachers are needed. These figures are not much compared to the military spending of most countries. Only then can we address the learning needs of the 758 million illiterates in the world.”

Delivering introductory remarks on behalf of Ms. Esther Kuisch Laroche, Director and Representative of UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office, Ms. Mary Anne Therese Manuson, Education Consultant, said that “as a shared societal endeavor, education implies an inclusive process of public policy formulation and implementation. Civil society, teachers and educators, the private sector, communities, families, youth and children all have important roles in realizing the right to quality education.”

The expert meeting provided a platform for non-state actors, particularly civil society organizations and private sector firms, to showcase their promising practices in expanding access and participation for disadvantaged learners in both formal and non-formal education contexts.

The meeting featured thematic sessions on education financing; the role of NGOs in providing education opportunities to vulnerable populations; and promoting quality and continuous education. 

The event served as a timely forum for the exchange of experiences and networking among exemplary Iranian non-state stakeholders who are actively participating in and sharing accountability for advancing inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 


23 April 2017 - UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office joined the 3rd Expert Meeting on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage for Environmental Sustainability

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On April 23 2017, the Regional Centre for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in West and Central Asia under the auspices of UNESCO and the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy of Shahid Beheshti University organized an expert meeting on “Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) for Environmental Sustainability”.

Founded in 2001, the UNESCO chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy of Shahid Beheshti University provides the necessary scientific platform for the establishment of the Centre for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy and Interdisciplinary Research in the Faculty of Law of Shahid Beheshti University.

The two day exert meeting focused on the role of Intangible Cultural Heritage in helping to ensure more sustainable forms of development which is an important issue of the international community with adaptation of the Suitable Development Goal Agenda 2015-2030.

The event was opened by the remarks of Ms Janet Blake, Associate Professor of Shahid Behesti University and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Expert of UNESCO focused on human rights including cultural diversity and suitable development which, in particular provides the policy framework within which the 2003 Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage was developed.

Ms Mahta Mohegh, representing the UNESCO Tehran Cluster office at this event, referred to culture as a driver of development, which creates a context in which development policies can move forward through local ownership, with greater efficiency and impact. “The power of culture for development lies precisely in its sustainability at the local level. Traditional knowledge, values and practices accumulated and renewed across generations as part of intangible cultural heritage, have guided human societies in their interactions with the surrounding natural environment for millennia.” said Ms Mohegh.

UNESCO highlighted the importance of supporting traditional systems of environmental protection and resource management that can contribute to increased sustainability of fragile ecosystems as well as the preservation of biodiversity.

The opening of the expert meeting continued by the remarks from Dr Mohammad Hassan Talebian, Deputy for Cultural Heritage if the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) made a comprehensive presentation on the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Historic Environment of Yazd.

The Expert meeting runs until 24 April 2017 with several panel discussion session.


19 April 2017 - UNESCO celebrates International Day of Sports for Peace and Development in Iran

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In the context of the International Day of Sports for Peace and Development, UNESCO organized a conference with the motto “Sport for Peace, Friendship and Development” on 19 April at Tehran University. The event was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Sports and Youth of I.R. Iran, the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, and the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Tehran.

As Turkmenistan will be hosting the 5th Asian Indoors and Martial Arts Games in September, the President of Turkmenistan has declared 2017 as the year of “Health and Inspiration”. Within that framework, the country has organized a number of events related to sports and physical education to highlight the benefits and values of sports. The Embassy of Turkmenistan organized an exhibition about the Asia Games alongside the conference.

The conference highlighted the benefits of sports for healthy, peaceful, inclusive societies and stressed in particular the important role of traditional sports and games in transmitting values from one generation to the next. There were several live demonstrations of traditional sports from different parts of Iran and Turkmenistan, including by the Iranian national team of Zurkhaneh.

After welcoming remarks by Dr. Rajabi, Vice-President of the Iranian National UNESCO Committee on Physical Education and Sport, Ms. Kuisch-Laroche welcomed the participants on behalf of UNESCO.

“There is nothing quite like sports to bring women and men from different cultures together around the shared values of fair play, mutual respect and team spirit”, said the UNESCO Representative.  

She highlighted the importance of values education through sports and said that sports had the power to provide a universal framework for learning values, and to contribute to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship.

 “Through competition and cooperation, learners appreciate the role of rule structures, conventions, values, performance criteria and fair play, and celebrate each other’s contributions, as well as appreciating the demands and benefits of teamwork. Additionally, the learner understands how to recognize and manage risk, to fulfill assigned tasks, and to accept responsibility for their own behavior. They learn how to cope with both success and failure, and how to evaluate performance against their own and others’ previous achievements. It is through these learning experiences that quality physical education provides exposure to clear, consistent values and reinforces pro-social behavior through participation and performance”, said Ms. Kuisch Laroche.

She went on to talk about the particular role of traditional sports and games. “Because of their deep roots in local culture, traditional sports can play a particularly important role in fostering social cohesion, and peace between different communities, and in transmitting important life values”, said the UNESCO Representative.

Dr. Nasiri, Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission stressed the relevance of sports for social inclusion in his remarks.

H.E. Mr. Ahmet Gurbanov, Ambassador of Turkmenistan in Tehran, talked about the importance that his country attaches to sports and introduced the 2017 Asia Games. He also showed the audience a short video clip about Turkmenistan’s preparations for hosting the Games.

Other speakers included Mr. Jafari, President of the Iranian Federation of Local Games and Traditional Sports; Ms. Ghilani, President of the Iranian Polo Federation; and Dr. Ahmadi, Deputy Minister for Cultural and Educational Affairs, Ministry of Sports and Youth.

After the conference, the participants visited the sports exhibition by the embassy of Turkmenistan.


UNESCO is the United Nations’ lead agency for Physical Education and Sport and plays the secretariat role for the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS). Since 1952, UNESCO has been working actively to promote the power and cross-cutting potential of sports and to facilitate access to physical education in both formal and non-formal settings. 

To learn more about our work in Physical Education and Sport, please see: http://en.unesco.org/themes/sport-and-anti-doping


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