30 November 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today became the first United Nations chief to visit the UN Memorial Cemetery in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and pay respect to the 2,300 soldiers that died in the line of duty during the Korean War in the early 1950s. “Today we remember those who fell in freedom’s name, and we remember the families and communities that still suffer from the war’s grim legacy,” Mr. Ban said at the cemetery in Busan, which he visited during an official trip to the ROK. “More than half a century ago, they stood against communist aggression. They fought and died so that we could be here today, living in larger freedom. We shall never forget them,” he added.The UN Memorial Cemetery is the only UN cemetery in the world. In his remarks during his visit to the site Mr. Ban said it is proof that “countries and peoples of all cultures, faiths, and geographies can unite to fight for universal principles.”He called the site “a beautiful monument to the brave UN soldiers” who lost their lives, and thanked local residents who visit the cemetery each day to lay wreaths of remembrance.“As a young boy, I watched the UN blue flag fly. I knew many of the soldiers who defended my country. They were brave and they were kind,” he said. “It was the courage of soldiers from 16 peace-loving nations and the support of five others who saved Korea from tyranny and helped to bring us where we are today.”He called for renewed commitment to reuniting the Korean Peninsula “so that all Koreans can live in peace and prosperity for generations to come.”
“Culture and education seem to have been held hostage to political debates,” Farida Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, said as she wrapped up her first mission to the country.“This has an immense detrimental effect on the artistic, cultural, scientific and academic life in the country, and on the right of all people, without discrimination, to enjoy their cultural rights and to access their cultural heritage,” she stated in a news release. Ms. Shaheed said one telling example is the current uncertainty surrounding the fate of seven crucial cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the National Museum which closed its doors last year. “I am concerned by the extent to which political bodies have expanded their influence over cultural institutions, whose independence should be guaranteed in law as well as in practice,” she said, noting that there was frustration across the board during her visit that efforts are being blocked at the level of senior decision-makers and politicians. The Special Rapporteur stressed that one worrying trend lies in “over-emphasizing cultural differences, including linguistic differences, to justify practices amounting to segregation of people based on their ethno-national affiliation, in particular in the field of education.” The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina is predominantly divided among three constituent peoples, or ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.She urged all levels of Government to maximize the opportunities for people to engage in culture, sports, science and arts, and to have access to “neutral spaces where politics and ethno-national affiliations do not interfere.” “A dynamic, pluralistic and inclusive culture is central to reconciliation and it is most certainly the way forward, in terms of both peace and economic development for Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said the expert. During the 12-day mission that concluded today, Ms. Shaheed met with a wide range of actors Sarajevo, Mostar, Jajce, Banja Luka, Brèko and Srebrenica, and visited a number of monuments, memorials and museums. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. They work in an unpaid capacity. Ms. Shaheed will present her report at a forthcoming session of the Council in Geneva.