After a corporate event was held on the site of the 7th century ruins of the Zvarnots Cathedral in Armenia on June 14, Hetq contacted Vahram Kajoyan, who serves as the Secretary General of the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO, for his reaction.
Kajoyan refused to answer our questions by phone, suggesting instead that we send them in writing to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kajoyan also heads the International Organisations Department that includes a UNESCO Division at the ministry.
The Zvartnots site, along with the cathedral and churches of Etchmiadzin, are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Armenia’s Ministry of Culture rented out the site for US$1,699 for a corporate party. News of the event and the ensuing publicity led to the sacking of the director of the site and a severe reprimand of the head of the Ministry’s Service for the Protection of the Historical Environment and Cultural Museum Reservations.
Here are the questions Hetq sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the answers we received:
Open and invitation only events, including weddings and parties, have been organized at the Zvartnots site for many years. Did you know this was happening and, if so, what steps had you taken?
The management of the Zvartnots site, including ensuring its preservation and security, is conducted by the Ministry of Culture’s Service for the Protection of the Historical Environment and Cultural Museum Reservations.
The organization of events taking place at the Zvartnots site is not agreed upon with the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO.
Is there a risk that as a result of the event that took place at Zvartnots on June 14, the site might lose its UNESCO World Heritage status? Are you taking steps to prevent such a possibility?
It is accepted practice for public events to be held at world heritage sites in other countries.
Countries having world heritage sites periodically present briefs to UNESCO regarding their preservation. Initiatives to strip a site of its status are taken when conditions deteriorate and when the country in question fails to take all necessary measures to preserve the site.
Where can we read about the activities of your commission regarding UNESCO related issues?
A condensed report can be found in the National Commissions for UNESCO 2013 Annual Report.
P.S. According to the abovementioned report: “National Commissions for UNESCO are national entities established by Member State governments in accordance with UNESCO’s Constitution (Article VII) and the Charter of National Commissions for UNESCO. They serve as important bodies for liaison, advice, information and programme implementation. Through their direct links to government and close contacts with academia and civil society networks, National Commissions contribute to the achievement of UNESCO’s objectives regarding programme delivery, partnerships with civil society and visibility at national, sub-regional and regional levels.”