President Yudhoyono was invited to the special session of the 36th UNESCO General Conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the declaration of universal cultural diversity because UNESCO considered the country to be an example of cultural diversity that eventually became a source of strength.
Indonesia is a unique laboratory for the country`s cultural diversity, a member of the Administrative Group of the International Bureau of Education (IBE) Council of UNESCO Arief Rachman said last November.
He said Indonesia has more than 500 tribes with more than 700 ethnic languages in more than 17,000 islands, and therefore UNESCO had invited the President to present his views on the development and preservation of the country`s cultural diversity.
In his speech at the UNESCO Headquarters in November 2011, Yudhoyono called on all parties in the world to join Indonesia in creating a new approach to the development of multicultural life.
He said a new approach must be found to develop understanding over cultural diversity and differences.
"The previous paradigm of `I and you` should now be changed into `we`," he said.
Yudhoyono expressed appreciation to UNESCO that has helped Indonesia protect and develop its cultures including its recognition of the country`s heritages such as Batik textile, Kris dagger and its assistance for the maintenance of Borobudur and Prambanan temples.
UNESCO Chief Irina praised Indonesia for its capability in preserving its cultural diversity in view of that fact that the nation consists of a lot of different ethnic groups, local languages and local cultures.
"I expressed my appreciation to Indonesia, a country with cultural diversity," she said in Paris.
After the Paris conference, Irina made her first official visit to Indonesia from November 19 to 25 during which she went through a quite hectic agenda.
She among other things visited the World Heritage site of Borobudur in Magelang, Central Java, Bali Island and Jakarta.
When visiting Borobudur Temple on November 19, Irina, a Bulgarian senior diplomat who was elected as UNESCO Director General in 2009 for four years, planted a bodhi tree, laid a stone and rewarded community workers in a ceremony to mark the end of a nearly two-year cleaning operation at the Buddhist temple following the eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010.
"The 2010 eruptions tell a story of destruction -- but, together, we are writing a new tale, one of resilience and unity," she said.
Built by a king of the Sailendra dynasty between AD 750 and 842, the temple was restored with UNESCO`s help in the 1970s.
Irina later officially opened the Sixth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Bali, from November 22 to 29, 2011.
During the week-long meeting, the Committee finally managed to select 11 items to be added to the List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent safeguarding, 19 others were inscribed on the Representative List, and five Best safeguarding Practices were selected.
Aceh`s Saman dance, well-known abroad as "Thousand hands" dance, was one of the 11 items inscribed in UNESCO`s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
In Bali, Irina also visited four sites constituting a cultural landscape of Bali which have been proposed by the Indonesian Government for inscription onto the UNESCO World Heritage list.
She later visited the Tsunami Early Warning Centre (InaTEWS) at the Meteorological, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) office in Jakarta on November 24, to see firsthand how the center operates.
Irina said through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO would continue to support the global coordination of tsunami early warning systems.
UNESCO is working with the Centre and other Indonesian partners to train teachers and students about how to react and to help each other when a warning is issued. When schools have such standard operating procedures in place, many lives can be saved.
Throughout her visit, she also met with senior government officials including with Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh, and Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu, to discuss UNESCO`s cooperation with Indonesia.
In October 2011, Indonesia has supported UNESCO`s decision to accept Palestine as a full member last October, which has caused the UN body to lose financial contribution from the United States which is against the Palestinian membership in the UN organization.
As UNESCO is financially experiencing difficult times, the Indonesian government has pledged $10 million to support the activities of UNESCO.
The Director-General expressed her gratitude for this significant and timely contribution, affirming that it would support UNESCO`s core activities, including the preservation of heritage, capacity building and improving the quality of education.
Previously, Indonesia`s cultural heritage which have included in UNESCO`s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are Angklung bamboo music instrument (2010), Batik traditional textile (2009); Kris blade and Wayang Puppet Theatre (2008).
Borobudur Temple was inscribed on the World Cultural Heritage List in 1991, together with Prambanan Temple compounds. In 1996, UNESCO included Sangiran Early Man Site in Solo, Central Java, where the first hominid fossil was discovered during excavations from 1936 to 1941, in the same list.
As for Indonesian natural sites, the World Heritage List has inscribed Komodo National Park (1991), Lorentz National Park (1999), Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (2004) and Ujung Kulon National Park (1991) .
In 2012, Indonesia plans to nominate Noken traditional bag from Papua, a Balinese dance, and the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII), and Sasando traditional music instrument of East Nusa Tenggara to be included in the UNESCO`s list of intangible world cultural heritage.
Balinese dances and the other Indonesian cultural features have been proposed as UNESCO`s Best Practices in Indigenous Knowledge.
Besides, since 2007, Bali has proposed four sites to be inscribed in UNESCO`s World Heritage List. The four sites are respectively lake Batur located in Bangli District, Ayun Park Temple at Mengwi sub district, Badung District, Catur Angga Batukaru covering Lake Buyan, Lake Tamblingan, Mt Batukaru and terraced rice field in Tabanan District, and Pakerisan river basin in Gianyar District.
If Bali successfully meets all the requirements, the four places will be named as "Bali Cultural Landscape Subak System", because the four sites philosophically are integrated and connected especially in the "subak" traditional management process for irrigation.
UNESCO will consider the four sites proposed by the Bali Province to be included onto the World Heritage list in May 2012, Ketut Suastika, the head of the Bali provincial tourism office, said in Denpasar, Bali, recently.
On October 13-17, 2011, a International Council on Monuments and Sites(ICOMOS)` team led by Augusto Villanonhad visited the four places in Bali for an evaluation as nominees of the World Heritage Sites.
Apart from Bali, other regions such as Jambi Province on Sumatra Island also want to join the UNESCO World Heritage List.
"We will propose two tourist objects as our priority program to UNESCO and obtain world recognition, namely the Muarojambi temple and the Geopark in Merangin," said the Jambi Culture and Tourism Office`s spokesperson, Heri Suroso, last June.
The Merangin Geopark is a remnant of fossils that were formed as a result of a sedimentation by molten magma coming out of the earth`s bowels 150 million to 299 million years ago.
The Buddhist Muarojambi Temple is an eight temple-like structures built around the 14th century.
Archaeologists conclude that the site was the center of Old Jambi, the capital of ancient Malay kingdom which reigned supreme about ten centuries ago. Muara Jambi temple complex covers an area of 12 km2, along the side of Batanghari river.
Songket traditional woven clothes of South Sumatra has been considered to be registered for consideration in the UNESCO List.
"Yes, indeed we want Songket to be registered (to UNESCO) like Batik, and we will do it," Minister Mari Elka Pangestu.
UNESCO was also expected to designate the Wakatobi National Marine Park in Southeast Sulawesi as World`s Biosphere Reserve.