“Protecting Cultural Heritage – an Imperative for Humanity”

By an IPS CorrespondentUNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 2015 (IPS)Jordan and Italy are leading efforts to protect cultural heritage worldwide – and specifically in war-ravaged Middle East. The two countries – along with INTERPOL, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) — will host a high level special event September 27 aimed at following up on resolutions and decisions adopted by international bodies solidifying political commitments for the protection of cultural heritage.A background paper released here says throughout the last decade, the world has witnessed an increase in the amount of destruction and terrorist attacks against cultural heritage of countries affected by armed conflict, as well as the unprecedented scale of organized looting, illicit trafficking and sale of cultural objects.Such acts are being used as a tactic of war to intimidate populations and governments. Furthermore, those acts aim to generate income for organized crime and terrorist groups to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their military operational capability.The urgency to save archaeological sites, museums and traditional cultural expressions remains paramount.The Middle East has witnessed recently, in great scale, a number of these horrific acts. In Iraq, ISIL or Daesh has intentionally destroyed the Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Parthian city of Hatra and the collections of the Mosul museum.In Syria, Daesh has committed numerous atrocities including the destruction of Palmyra’s ancient temple of Baalshamin, a World Heritage site. The destruction of Timbuktu mausoleums in Mali and the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan are examples of other groups inflicting terror into populations by targeting their culture and history.Despite significant efforts and the progress achieved, there is still much to be accomplished at the operational and practical levels in the areas of international cooperation and criminal (and civil) proceedings to ensure timely responses to the new threats. Such operational and practical steps cannot be successful without our collective political will.The paper says the international community must remain engaged and the discussions have to be further developed and operationalized. All stakeholders’ efforts should be more systematic, harmonized and well framed to achieve sustainability of efforts.The Ministerial-Level Event will offer an opportunity to launch a partnership project addressing the protection of cultural heritage and property from destruction and trafficking by terrorists and organized crime groups.The meeting will focus on addressing the potential ways to act together against the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorists and organized crime groups in all affected countries. (End)