The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today launched the Global Coalition Unite for Heritage campaign, which aims to strengthen the mobilization of governments and all heritage stakeholders in the face of deliberate damage to cultural heritage, particularly in the Middle East.
“The threat is global and our response must be global. It requires better coordination among national services, the exchange of information among States. Nothing can replace, in this area, the action of governments,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova as she launched the initiaitve in Bonn, Germany, where the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee us under way.
“Our main challenge is to succeed in getting all the players involved in this struggle to work together: police, customs officials, museums, governments, actors from the cultural, humanitarian and security sectors, civil society and the media. We need to create new alliances to meet the challenges of violent extremism,” the Director-General said.
During the morning, the World Heritage Committee adopted the Bonn Declaration on World Heritage which condemns “the barbaric assaults, violence and crimes committed in recent times by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, against the cultural heritage of Iraq, including the World Heritage site at Hatra, which recalls mindless destructions in Bamiyan, Timbuktu and elsewhere.”
The Committee also expressed deep concern for other sites such as Palmyra, in Syria, or the Old Town of Sana’a, in Yemen. The Declaration recommends that heritage protection be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions where appropriate. It also calls on UNESCO to enhance its international leadership in coordinating the response to the protection of heritage in the event of armed conflict or natural disaster.
The Global Coalition Unite for Heritage aims to mobilize players beyond the cultural and heritage communities and seeks to sensitize the general public and young people in particular to culture’s unifying force. It expands on UNESCO’s efforts to coordinate technical work among different specialized agencies and institutions, and on the social media campaign to mobilize young people and civil society at large.
During a visit to Baghdad in March this year, Ms. Bokova launched the social media campaign #Unite4Heritage. UNESCO also brought together all the heads of organizations involved in the fight against illicit trafficking to speed up the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2199, which bans the trade in cultural objects from Syria and Iraq.