Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage
The Donors Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage was held on 20 March in Paris. Spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates, this conference was aimed at rallying the international community around the need to safeguard cultural property in conflict zones. Among other things, it gave rise to an international fund. The next step: a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on 24 March.
“You can’t invent the future without awareness of the past.” François Hollande, 20 March 2017
Throughout the world, wars and terrorism threaten a sometimes thousand-year cultural heritage that testifies to the diversity of human civilizations and our common humanity.
A great deal of cultural property has already come under attack - think of AQIM’s destruction of the great mosques and manuscripts of Timbuktu in 2012, or of the ancient city of Palmyra, which was seriously damaged by Daesh in 2015.
The diversity of our cultural heritage makes it a source of collective wealth and sparks dialogue. It contributes to understanding, tolerance, freedom, and respect. Its destruction is a threat to peace.
The destruction of cultural heritage has become a tactic of war aimed at fueling conflicts and feeding propaganda. The looting and illegal trade in cultural property are also seen by many armed groups, and notably terrorist groups, as a source of income.
“Fanatics have made trafficking, looting, and the destruction of cultural heritage an extension of their persecution of people. The goal is the same: to shatter what existed before in order to destroy hope afterwards, to eradicate human and cultural diversity.” - François Hollande, 20 March 2017
The destruction and pillaging of historic sites, particularly in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Mali, led France and the United Arab Emirates, in partnership with UNESCO, to work for their protection. This is a priority for France.
The conference hosted on 20 March in Paris by France and the United Arab Emirates ushered in the practical implementation of measures adopted in December 2016 at the conference held in Abu Dhabi.
The conference held at the Louvre on 20 March aimed to do the following:
- To solidify commitments to funding the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), which finances preventive or emergency actions, combats the illegal trafficking of cultural property, and helps restore damaged cultural property.
- To bring together donor nations; nations such as Iraq, Mali, and Afghanistan that have experienced the destruction of their cultural heritage; and donors.
The conference raised $75 million for ALIPH. France announced that it would contribute $30 million to this fund.
The conference on March 20 is part of a broader effort by France.
* March 2015: while visiting the Louvre, François Hollande announced France’s intention to strive to preserve cultural heritage and cultural diversity. At the President’s request, in November 2015, the museum’s chairman and director issued a report containing 50 recommendations to safeguard cultural property in conflict situations.
* September 2016: During the UN General Assembly, François Hollande visited the Metropolitan Museum de New York where he issued a call and presented the French-Emirati initiative. He noted that protecting the cultural heritage is a challenge not for one civilization, but for humanity.
* December 2016: the first international conference was held in Abu Dhabi under the high patronage of UNESCO. It was attended by representatives of more than 40 states, international organizations, and cultural associations. A statement was adopted reaffirming the states’ wish to join forces to safeguard the endangered cultural heritage of all people, protecting it from destruction and illegal trafficking. In particular, this statement provided for establishing an international fund to protect endangered cultural heritage and to create an international network of havens to temporarily safeguard cultural property endangered by armed conflicts or terrorism.
* March 2017: establishment in Geneva by France and the UAE of an international fund in the form of a public-private foundation: the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas.
* March 2017: France signed the second protocol to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
At the behest of France and Italy, a ministerial-level meeting will be held at the Security Council on March 24 on the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorist groups in armed conflicts.
While the Security Council has already dealt with the specific question of financing terrorism by trafficking in cultural property or in specific situations (Iraq, Syria, and Mali, for example), this is the first time it will adopt a resolution providing a global framework for protecting cultural property.
Condemns all threats to cultural heritage in armed conflicts
Proposes measures to improve the ways that states coordinate to prevent destruction and theft, combat trafficking, and protect cultural property.
Improves coordination between states and the appropriate UN entities
Supports states concerned by the theft and destruction of their cultural heritage.
UNESCO representatives will offer testimony. France will be represented by Minister of Culture and Communication Audrey Azoulay.