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Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow

Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow is a Senegalese academic and politician. After graduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, he returned to Senegal to teach geography and history. He was Minister of Education and Culture between 1952 and 1957, a period of internal self-government before embarking on the struggle for independence. He became a member of the National Assembly, first as Minister of National Education (1966-1968) and then as Minister of Culture and Youth (1968-1970). From 1966 onwards, he served on the Executive Board of UNESCO as the representative of Senegal, before becoming Assistant Director-General for Education in 1970. He was elected Director-General of UNESCO in 1974 and serve for 13 years . In 2008, at the age of 87, he chaired the National Conference of Senegal, a large gathering to address the political and social problems of the country.

Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow is the author of numerous publications, including several on UNESCO's missions, in particular Aux sources du futur : La problématique mondiale et les missions de l’UNESCO (L’Harmattan, 2011). He has also contributed to the publications of the Académie du Royaume du Maroc through some thirty papers dealing with major cultural, political, economic and social problems of the world, often from an African perspective.

During his years as Director-General of UNESCO, Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow oversaw the work of the secretariat for the World Heritage Convention. He received the first ratifications which made it possible for the Convention to enter into force and oversaw the inscription of the first sites on the World Heritage List in 1978.

The following audio excerpts are from an interview with Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow by Mechtild Rössler and Petra Van Den Born in October 2009. In particular, he gives an account of UNESCO's first interventions in the field of cultural heritage, putting into context of the birth of the 1972 Convention. He also stresses the importance of international cooperation and calls for the protection of the too often neglected types of heritage, from modernism to natural sites.

UNESCO, les archives orales du patrimoine mondial, Chaire de recherche du Canada en patrimoine bâti, Université de Montréal, entrevue audio d’Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow par Mechtild Rössler, Paris, France, 22 octobre 2009.