Abu Dhabi commits $100 million to protect endangered cultural heritage
UAE leaders, foreign heads of states, prime ministers and dignitaries gathered in Abu Dhabi for the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference. Under the patronage of UNESCO, the conference was an initiative by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and French President François Hollande aimed at protecting and preserving the endangered cultural heritage of mankind from the destructive results of armed conflicts.
During the event, His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority commented: “Heritage, in all its diversity, is a source of collective wealth and encourages dialogue. It is a vehicle for closer relations, tolerance and freedom. In an armed conflict situation, heritage is particularly at risk, owing to its inherent vulnerability and tremendous symbolic value. It is encouraging to see so many of us converge and collaborate to develop tangible goals to safeguard this heritage.”
The global conference brought together over 40 countries within the international community affected by heritage loss due to conflict, alongside key players involved in the field of world heritage preservation. It concluded with the announcement of the creation of an international fund for the protection of endangered cultural heritage in armed conflicts. The fund, which aims to raise $100 million by the time it is fully established, will help finance preventive and emergency operations, fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts, as well as contribute to the restoration of damaged cultural property. The announcement was made through the adoption of the Abu Dhabi Declaration, a solemn statement confirming the commitment of all those present to back the fund and their resolve to support the establishment of the foundation.
Several foreign heads of states, prime ministers and dignitaries attended the various sessions across the two days along with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Hollande, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
In his opening speech, Jack Lang, President of Institut du Monde Arabe said: “It is for us, citizens of the world, a great pleasure to be united in the magical land of the United Arab Emirates. This conference we are invited to, is a historical event, but the task and the challenges at hand are great. It is time to mobilise the international and public actors to preserve the heritage threatened by war and terrorism. UNESCO has accomplished great work, and we will work hand in hand with them to provide our utmost support. I highly recognise the great work that has been accomplished in the run up to this event. I would like to thank the UAE for their exceptional hospitality and their continuous engagement in the fight for safeguarding cultural heritage. The UAE is a role model in this field and has paved the way towards devising and implementing actionable solutions and we thank them for spearheading this initiative.”
UNESCO’s global mandate is to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts and is pushing towards a new approach to protect culture for peace and security. Speaking at the closing ceremony, HE Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO said: “Over the past years, together we have built a new landscape, a new approach for the protection of heritage, bringing together partners far outside the “culture box” – against the deliberate destruction of heritage as a war crime and a key security issue. The creation of this Fund breaks new ground and I see this as the starting point of something larger – a renewed commitment for culture, education, human dignity, where the protection of heritage is part and parcel of a global strategy against hatred and extremism, to build lasting foundations for peace.”
A follow-up conference in 2017 will help assess the implementation of the initiatives as manifested by the ABU DHABI DECLARATION.