In an interview made with IRNA news agency, the president of ECO Cultural Institute, pointed to the importance of culture in resolving conflicts in the field of media and said: Such conflicts could be resolved through cultural interactions.
Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the Member States. ECO is the successor organization of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) which remained in existence since 1964 up to 1979.
In 1992, the Organization was expanded to include seven new members, namely: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan.
Following the expansion of ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) to ten Member States of the Region having a common cultural heritage and located in one of the most strategic regions of the world, the organization gained a special role as a regional organization and consequently, the need for the revival of its cultural Institute was felt.
The formal endorsement of the revival of the RCD Cultural Institute under its present name ‘ECO Cultural Institute' was finally manifested through the signing of its Charter at the Third ECO summit Meeting held at Islamabad on 14-15 March, 1995 "to consolidate cultural affinities and spiritual and fraternal ties that bind the people of the Member States through social and cultural channels of thought and action".
Sarvar Bakhti, the president of the ECO Cultural Institute since January 2020, recently paid a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA), and talked with the cultural correspondent of the news agency on the Institute's programs during the Corona virus pandemic. He also expressed readiness to cooperate with the Ministries of Cultural Heritage of the ECO member countries to preserve the cultural heritage at the risk of being forgotten.
Concentration of More Activities in the Cyberspace
Responding to the question that considering situation that has occurred due to Corona virus pandemic, what plans ECI have devised to maintain the relations among the countries, Sarvar Bakhti said: "The Corona pandemic has canceled and limited many activities, especially in the field of culture. Just like other cultural institutions, we had also planned a lot of programs as usual, the roadmap of which had been set at the beginning of the year and were being carried out step by step. Unfortunately, many of our programs were canceled, for example, we had planned for five programs in January and were fully prepared to organize two of them. Even respective invitations had been delivered. Herat Night was one of those programs for which artists from Afghanistan had even arrived in Tehran to participate. When organizing large gatherings were banned by the government, we had to cancel both the programs".
"Like other world cultural institutions, ECO Cultural Institute has adapted its activities to the current situation", he continued, saying: "Today, we focus on organizing most of our activities in the cyberspace and have held a series of webinars at the Institute."
Pointing to some of the programs organized, Bakhti added: "We held a series of online meetings on the written heritage of the ECO region for organizing which, Allameh Tabatabai University also cooperated. Representatives from 11 countries, this time outside the ECO region, actively participated in these webinars. We have launched a series of online workshops and recently held a training workshop on the art of illumination. We have many plans in mind for holding online meetings.
The president of ECO Cultural Institute went on saying: "These days, we have organized a virtual exhibition of works of art in the gallery of ECO Cultural Institute in cooperation with the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO in and we intend to make a series of virtual exhibitions available to the peoples of ECO Region."
This professor of Middle Eastern language and literature further stated: "Among our other programs are virtual book launch ceremonies being organized for introducing the publications of the Institute. We have become more active in the field of publications; we have around 20 books to be published, and in the near future, we will hold the book launch ceremony of the book titled ‘Life and Works of Kamal Khujandi', one of the main elements of cultural heritage of the region, on the occasion of his 700th birthday."
Bakhti then referred to the publication of ECI magazine and continued: "Another one of our activities is the publication of ECI magazine in the field of arts and culture of ECO region. Just a few days ago, the latest issue of ECO Heritage magazine was published, which deals with the traditional cuisine of ECO countries. In this edition, we have collected almost all the traditional dishes of the ECO countries, beautiful photos have also been added to this collection, and we hope that the readers will like the magazine".
Referring to the remaining few months till Nowruz, as the most important commonality of the ECO region, and considering the fact that the Nowruz ceremony was not held last year, Bakhti stated: "We do not know what will be the conditions arising from Corona pandemic in the upcoming months. However, we will plan to organize a fine Nowruz ceremony with the active participation of the ECO member countries, and if the opportunity presents, we will hold the event in person, and if the conditions do not improve, we will prepare our programs for presentation in the cyberspace. Presently, we are preparing for it."
Cooperation for the Preservation the Elements of Cultural Heritage at the Risk of being Forgotten
As for ECI programs regarding the preservation of the common cultural heritage at the risk of being forgotten, Bakhti said: "Preservation of common cultural heritage, particularly those at the risk of being forgotten, is very important for ECO Cultural Institute. We have always paid special attention to this issue and the webinar held on the written heritage was one of the programs devised in this regard"
"At this workshop, professional, high-ranking professors talked about the written heritage of ECO member countries. Part of this program dealt with recognizing seals and siahqalam. Very fine training was provided. However, unfortunately there are very few professionals in many countries who can read and understand manuscripts. That is why we organized this workshop so that prominent specialists of the field, who are rare today, can teach the experts of the field in the ECO region to read the manuscripts. The workshop particularly was intended for the young generation who should be able to use this long-lasting heritage, and we will continue to do so in the future."
The president of the ECO Cultural Institute then added: "Another point for future cooperation with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, Tourism of Iran and other countries is for the preservation of the elements of cultural heritage that are at the risk of being forgotten. We will prepare a document that studies this important issue and identifies what countries could do to preserve those elements of cultural heritage that will be lost if we do not pay attention to them".
While expressing gratitude for the cooperation being rendered by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA), Sarvar Bakhti said: "At this stage that we are focusing more on virtual programs, we ask for your support to cover these programs. IRNA is not only trusted in Iran, but has also enjoys a great scope of audience in all countries of the ECO region, especially in Persian-speaking ones."
Sarvar Bakhti then referred to the significance of culture in resolving conflicts in the field of media and said: "As a cultural institution, we expect the media of the ECO member states to cover cultural, artistic and social issues more, help to bring the peoples of the region closer together and eliminate some misunderstandings through dissemination of information. One of the main missions of the media is to cover cultural, social and sports events that bring nations closer together and create fields of common interest and understanding among them."