Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO’

Germany’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 27th November, 2014

BambergWhen one thinks of UNESCO World Heritage sites I suppose ancient wonders such as the Pyramids at Giza or Stonehenge come to mind, so for many people it will come as a surprise to know that Germany boasts no fewer than 39 of them, ranging from the old city of Bamberg to the broads of the Wadden Sea. Some locations, such as Trier, are home to an astonishing variety of architectural periods of styles from the Roman era onward, while others, such as the palaces and other grand buildings round Potsdam form more of a unity. The German travel board, Germany Travel, offers a good brief introduction to each of the UNESCO gems on its website, as well as suggesting itineraries off the beaten track. But people in London can get an excellent preview over the next couple of weeks at an exhibition of beautiful photographs of Germany’s UNESCO world heritage sites by Hans-Joachim Aubert, at Europe House, the European Commission and European Parliament offices in Smith Square, Westminster. This exhibition has been travelling the world and could hardly be a better showcase of what the EU’s most populous nation has to offer and is itself a fine example of location photography at its very best.


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White Gold and Black Gold

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 10th November, 2014

frankincenseLong before Oman struck oil, providing the wherewithal for the modernisation of the country and its infrastructure after Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970, this South Eastern corner of Arabia acquired a significant part of its wealth from the trade in frankincense, the aromatic resin of a long-living tree found notably in the Dhofar region. In biblical times and well into the Middle Ages, frankincense was very costly, making it worth the while of traders to transport it by camels across the desert to Jeddah in what is now Saudi Arabia, for shipment to Egypt and beyond, or overland via Petra and on into the Middle East and Europe. Just as oil was dubbed “black gold”, so frankincense was referred to as “white gold” — the most prized type being a milky white, though other less expensive varieties are a murkier brown or grey. The value dropped hugely in modern times, as other forms of air purifier and perfumes were commercialised, but it is still produced in significant quantities in Oman and sells well in e markets here, not least in Salalah, where I am writing this blog piece. Earlier today I visited the UNESCO world heritage site in a wadi where there are hundreds of trees, many of them centuries old. Outside the fenced-in area of government production, the trees have been shorn of lower foliage by camels, but one only needs to make a small nick in the bark for a tiny emission of sticky white resin to emerge, already full of scent. In normal harvesting, which happens between May and September, the trees are left for three weeks for them to bleed sufficiently to provide the requisite amount. Frankincense was one of the wondrous products presented to the baby Jesus by the Three Kings, according to the New Testament, and it is somehow reassuring to think that this white gold will continue to be garnered in Oman long after the black gold runs out.

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The Doha Declaration on Jerusalem

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 28th February, 2012

The Jerusalem conference which ended in Doha, capital of Qatar, last night produced a Declaration which referenced at least some of the issues raised in the conference’s four working groups: (1) History of Jerusalem, (2) Jerusalem and International Law, (3) Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and (4) the role of civil society organisations in the defence and protection of Jerusalem. I attended the last-mentioned (along with many other Christians and Muslims and a small number of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews), for which I had produced a paper on the role of NGOs in Britiain in raising awareness of issues relating to Jerusalem. A lot of the discussion in that group focussed on house demolitions, the difficulty Arabs have at getting building permits in East Jerusalem and the way Palestinians in the West Bank have had access to Jerusalem hampered or even blocked by both the Security Wall and the lack of necessary papers issued by the Israeli occupatin authorities. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani financed the conference, as well as opening it, so it is not surprising that he figured prominently in the final Declaration, the English version of which was published by the Gulf Times newspaper today as follows:

The International Conference for the defence of Jerusalem was hosted by Doha, the capital of the State of Qatar, from 26 to 27 February, 2012, in implementation of the resolution no. 503 of the 22nd Arab Summit held in Sirte on 28 March 2010.

The conference was held under the slogan “Support the Steadfastness of Jerusalem”, under the auspices and attendance of HH the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, in the presence of the President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas, Arab League Secretary General Dr Nabil al-Arabi, Arab Foreign Ministers, heads of international and regional organisations an bodies, organisations and federations advocating human rights, clerics, as well as intellectuals, legal, political and historical figures who gathered in a historic global mobilisation to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in the city of Jerusalem and their legitimate rights.

The Declaration welcomes the invitation of HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani to use Jerusalem’s freedom as a fulcrum of all Palestinians and an incentive for achieving reconciliation and ending division. The Declaration appreciates and supports the proposal of HH the Emir to go to the Security Council to adopt a Resolution for the formation of an international commission to investigate all Israeli actions taken since the 1967 occupation of Jerusalem with a viuw to erase its Arab and Islamic features. It also welcomes HH the Emir’s invitation to prepare a comprehensive strategy for the various sectors and projects that Jerusalem needs, and Qatar’s willingness to participate with all its capacities in accomplishing this strategy and putting it into practice. It emphasizes that Israel breaches International Law to forcefully displace the people of Jerusalem through Judaisation schemes, the denial of justice, obscuring history and heritage, land alienation and property confiscation. It expresses deep concern about the ongoing Israeli works including excavations in Al-Aqsa Mosque and around the Old City, which seriously affect the distinctive character of the city at the religious, cultural, historical and demographic levels, and are contradictory with the decisions of the decisions of UNESCO and UN resolutions related to the city’s territory and the rules of International Law and especially the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of 1954.

The Declaration calls on international powers who remain silent towards Israeli violations to assume their responsiblity and compel Israel to implement all UN resolutions relevant to Jerusalem. The Doha Declaration calls on the UN and its relevant institutions to shoulder their responsiblities towards Jerusalem and its people; to ensure that they enjoy all their civil, economic and social rights in their city; and to preserve the city’s sacred sites, historical monuments and human heritage.


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Palestine, UNESCO and the US

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 4th November, 2011

The vote to accord Palestine member status at UNESCO means that the Palestinians now have their foot in the door of the United Nations and this must now make it easier for them to obtain membership of UN specialised agencies such as the WHO. Of course, the impasse regarding Palestinian membership of the United Nations itself remains. Though it would have litle difficulty in achieving a majority in the UN General Assembly, Palestine still faces the threat of a US veto if the matter comes to a difinitive vote in the Security Council, where the matter is still being considered. The United States (and Israel, predictably) voted against Palestine’s UNESCO membership and Washington then compounded its folly by withdrawing some of its funding for UNESCO as punishment. One would have hoped that such stupid tactics had ended with the Reagan presidency, but alas the Obama administration seems as keen as its prededcessors to swear its loyalty to the government and priorities of Israel, even though it is Israel that is in violation of so many UN resolutions and aspects of International Law. Thus Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have hammered another nail into the coffin of US credibility across the Arab and Islamic world, as well as among many of the other  nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. At least Britain did not vote against Palestine at UNESCO, though I am disappointed that it abstained. It is time for the UK to stop sitting on the fence and to actively back Palestine’s integration into the world community. London already has a full Palestinian Embassy, after all, so logically we should be recognising the territory as a state as well.

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World Press Freedom Day and the Arab Spring

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd May, 2011

The Thomson Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf hosted this year’s World Press Freedom Day event this evening (co-sponsored by UNESCO UK) to mark the dangers and threats to media worldwide, but this time with a difference, as the focus was on events around the Arab Spring, notably in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. It was particularly good to hear from Shahira Amin, the former Nile TV presenter who resigned from her job at the Egyptian channel in order to join the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January. Alanoud Al Sharekh, a Kuwaiti resarcher at the IISS, spoke movingly about the sitution in Bahrain and the former BBC Middle East commentator Magdi Abdelhadi gave some insightful observations about the problems of reporting from Syria (where foreign journalists are currently barred). A common thread was how social networking, new media and citizen journalism have revolutionised the situation across the Middle East and North Africa, but no less important was the recognition that there is a new generation of young people in the region who won’t take the bullshit from their tyrranical leaders any more and who are prepared to stand up and be counted, even if as yet they are unclear about what future they want to see. We live in stirring times, exciting times for a journalist and broadcaster such as myself with a special interest in the region. But also an increasingly dangerous time for journalists, scores of whom have been killed while trying to do their job over the past 12 months, not just in war situations such as Libya but also in criminal environments and areas of social breakdown such as Pakistan, Mexico and the Philippines. Jeremy Browne, the LibDem Foreign Office Minister with special responsibility for human rights, sent an excellent video message to the event underlining the current British government’s commitment to media freedom as a key element in foreign policy — something many of us would like to see more evidence of on the ground!


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George Town, Penang

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th December, 2009

I had intended to reach Ipoh today, but as the minivan I got from Hat Yai terminated in Penang, I decided to terminate there as well and so I will be ending the year in George Town. It’s 40 years since I was last on the island, though as I recall I didn’t linger even an hour in the capital then but instead headed straight for the beach (as one does at that age). Anyway, I’m glad to have the chance to make up for that now. Of course, there have been a lot of changes over four decades. Many new high-rise buildings have sprung up, for a start, and a long bridge now links the island to mainland Malaysia — which means far more cars than there were before. The character has changed somewhat too, as Penang was a free port way back then, whereas now it is more a centre for tourism, both domestic and foreign. There is still a lot to see, though. In fact, it is one of the jewels of South East Asia for anyone interested in history. It was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July last year. There is an extraordinary blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian culture, as well as some splendid colonial buildings from the British times. The seafront Eastern and Oriental Hotel — a bankrupt ruin when I was last here — has been beautifully restored to resemble its glory days when it was run by the Armenian Sarkies brothers as one of the great hotels of the world, much loved by Somerset Maugham, among others. Tomorrow, I’ll be off to see where the ‘father’ of modern China, Sun Yat Sen, was based in 1910 and where the German author Hermann Hesse visited just a few months later.

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