Cultural heritage remains highly threatened [fr]

Protection of cultural heritage - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 30 November 2017

"It is our collective responsibility to preserve international peace and security and to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage by murderous attempts to deny history and prevent its use to finance terrorism and fuel conflicts. ." Ambassador François Delattre
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L’Ambassadeur François Delattre et la Directrice générale de l’UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, à la réunion du Conseil de sécurité sur la protection du patrimoine culturel.

I should like at the outset to commend Italy for its ongoing commitment to the issue of the protection of endangered cultural heritage. France and Italy have always shared the objective of protecting the heritage of humankind. That objective is deeply rooted in our common DNA and that is what led us in March to work together to draft resolution 2347 (2017), which was one of the deliverables of the International Conference on Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas. held in Abu Dhabi. As others have said, it is the first resolution entirely devoted to the protection of heritage in situations of conflict and that, for the first time, covers all threats to heritage, whether or not they are posed by terrorist groups.

Allow me also to warmly welcome Ms. Audrey Azoulay and welcome her to the United Nations for her first briefing to the Security Council as Director-General of UNESCO, which was especially important and elucidating. I wish her every success in her new duties. I would also like to thank Мr. Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General and head of the Office of Counter-Terrorism; Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; Mr. Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL; and Mr. Alessandro Bianchi, Project Leader for Cultural Heritage Protection in the Italian Ministry of Culture, for their particularly useful briefings.

For France, as for the United Nations, the question of the protection of cultural heritage, given its essential and existential dimension, is and will continue to be a top priority. I will confine my remarks to three main points.

First, I would like to make an observation. Despite our efforts, cultural heritage remains highly threatened today, particularly in situations of armed conflict. Bamiyan, Timbuktu, Palmyra, Nineveh, Mosul and Erbil — there is, alas, no shortage of examples of the destruction of cultural heritage by armed groups or terrorist groups. Beyond the issue of civilization, heritage protection is also a security issue because illicit trafficking in looted cultural goods finances terrorist networks and is a factor in the development of armed conflicts. Armed groups and terrorist organizations are strengthened by the revenue derived from trafficking in antiquities. Stolen cultural property from war-torn countries in turn serves to fuel conflicts. That is why France has supported the possibility of some peacekeeping operations providing assistance to the authorities of the concerned countries in the protection of cultural and historical sites. As was recalled by the Director-General of UNESCO, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali is already working closely with UNESCO to support the Malian authorities in protecting and valorizing the richness of their tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Resolution 2347 (2017) paves the way for the possible inclusion in the mandate of other peacekeeping operations, at the request of the Security Council, the provision of such support to the authorities of the countries concerned. In that spirit, it is imperative that the international community as a whole remain fully mobilized.

Secondly, I will address France’s commitment. At the European level, France has worked hard to propose the new community instrument dedicated to controlling the import of cultural goods, the text of which is currently being discussed in Brussels. At the national level, France is implementing many measures that are in line with the objectives of resolution 2347 (2017). I will not enumerate them all, but emphasize two particular concrete measures. The first measure is the strengthening of French legislation to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property. For example, the law of 3 June 2016 on the fight against organized crime, terrorism and their financing creates a new criminal offense aimed at punishing the intentional participation in the trafficking of cultural property from areas where terrorist organizations are established. Those provisions are supplemented and reinforced by the law of 7 July 2016, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, which notably provides for the introduction of customs control over the import of cultural goods. The second example is the cooperation of the French police services, in particular the central office to combat trafficking in cultural property, with INTERPOL through information-sharing exchanges, particularly in the context of investigations, thanks to the organization’s integrated and secure communication system.

At the international level, France and the United Arab Emirates took the initiative of convening an international conference in Abu Dhabi in late 2016, at which we brought together States, public institutions, private partners, scientists and major non-governmental organizations to create an international alliance to protect endangered cultural heritage. The Abu Dhabi conference, as Ms. Azoulay recalled, launched two unprecedent initiatives. The first is the creation of a network of safe havens to house endangered cultural property and the second is the creation of the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH). France has contributed the first part of its pledge, and the work on the Board of Trustees has started. UNESCO will also sit as a non-voting member of ALIPH.

All these initiatives are complementary to the UNESCO strategy to strengthen its action in the field of cultural heritage protection and the promotion of cultural diversity in armed conflict, and are in line with existing international conventions. France is also pursuing its cooperation with UNESCO through a number of actions at the regional level, particularly with regard to countries whose heritage is under threat, particularly through the training of heritage professionals, police and customs administrators.

Finally, and this will be my last remark, I want to stress the key role the United Nations plays in the protection of endangered cultural heritage. Resolution 2347 (2017) is a historic step forward in our common struggle to protect endangered heritage. In that connection, I would like to commend the role played by Ms. Audrey Azoulay. The resolution urged States and the United Nations system to redouble their efforts and ensure their consistency.I commend the essential role played by UNESCO in the protection of heritage and the promotion of cultural diversity as an instrument of peace and a moral conscience of humankind, and recall that culture connects men and women to their history and their land and weaves the fabric of their future community. Thanks to UNESCO, States have committed themselves to this by adopting major our common heritage. The mandate of this institution is more relevant than ever in a world where the values it has embodied since its establishment are being called into question.

In addition to welcoming the recognition in resolution 2347(2017) of the need to prosecute those responsible for war crimes against cultural heritage, France hails the recent strengthening of the partnership between UNESCO and the International Criminal Court. It is a very positive development and it sends a strong message to armed and terrorist groups who are threatening cultural heritage. Moreover, its just confirms the recent work of the Court on this subject, in cooperation with UNESCO and France in particular. I would also like to pay tribute to the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and INTERPOL, which both play a crucial role in the prevention of the trafficking of cultural property by raising States’ awareness of these still largely unknown problems through technical assistance or legal and police cooperation.

Lastly, the team of experts of the Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities is also conducting outstanding analytical work on the use of trafficking in cultural goods by terrorist groups. It is essential that the Security Council continue to support and rely on their expertise.

Each of these organizations and entities has a vital role to play. Resolution 2347 (2017) invites them and Member States to better coordinate their work and to ensure consistency in their approaches. It is our collective responsibility to preserve international peace and security and to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage by murderous attempts to deny history and prevent its use to finance terrorism and fuel conflicts. France will continue to play its part in these efforts and hopes that the Security Council remains fully engaged on this crucial issue.

Dernière modification : 05/12/2017

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