UNESCO regional training addresses illicit trafficking of Syria cultural heritage | Culture & Society | Ammon News

UNESCO regional training addresses illicit trafficking of Syria cultural heritage

[2/11/2013 12:00:00 AM]

AMMAN – As part of UNESCO’s action in response to the current Syrian crisis, the UNESCO Office in Amman is organizing a four-day regional training workshop, from the 10th to 13th of February 2013, to promote awareness and cooperation to prevent the illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property and to promote regional cooperation. This initiative is part of a broader range of measures that UNESCO is undertaking in its fields of competence to respond to the Syrian crisis, including addressing the needs of Syrian refugees in the region.

Under the patronage of HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jordan Museum, and with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture, the initiative will bring together representatives of customs and heritage departments from Syria and neighboring countries as well as international experts from countries such as Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany and the United States to discuss the situation of the illicit traffic and the looting of cultural artifacts of Syria. The training will draw on the experience gained by UNESCO in other conflict and post-conflict situations, such as Iraq, and Afghanistan in order to propose actions to address the current threats of illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property.

“We must focus on the importance of museums and archives as repositories of shared knowledge for a nation,” said HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan in a keynote speech to delegates attending the opening of the event. “These should be protected by populations and combatants as sanctuaries and shared spaces and must be elevated above politics and conflict.” HRH added that “setting a global context for challenges faced by cultural heritage in times of conflict, war and catastrophic events was essential to ensuring that the heritage of afflicted nations was safeguarded for future generations. Protection of culture was a vital part of protecting people in crisis as it provides them with invaluable resources to rebuild communities and restore links when conflict ends.”

“For UNESCO, respect for culture is an integral part of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We must join efforts to safeguard and protect Syrian cultural heritage,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in her recent statements on the situation of cultural heritage in Syria, building on the statements by the joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. The Director-General of UNESCO also reminded all concerned parties that “they shall be held accountable not only for the tragic loss of human lives but also for the loss of the inestimable testimonies of Syria’s past history and legacy to the world’s civilization.”

The current situation of cultural property in Syria raises serious concerns as many historical and archaeological sites, among them UNESCO World Heritage Sites and sites in the World Heritage Tentative List, have been affected by armed conflict. The looting of several archaeological sites and museums has also been reported by various sources.

“In order to build and maintain long-term peace, it is crucial to safeguard people’s cultural identity and history, which are the foundations of the national unity of Syria. UNESCO, as a specialized organization of the United Nations System, is deeply committed to helping protect Syrian cultural heritage by strengthening regional and international cooperation to fight against illicit trafficking,” said UNESCO’s Head of Office in Amman, Anna Paolini. 

Background information:

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized agency of the UN and works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. UNESCO’s mission in Jordan is to work with the government of Jordan to provide effective high quality educational, scientific, cultural and communications programmes.

For more information about the work of UNESCO in Jordan, please visit unesco.org/amman

For more information on the project, please contact: Valentina Gamba v.gamba@unesco.org

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