NEW YORK (WAM), 3rd MAY 2023 — The United Arab Emirates presided over a meeting of the United Nations Security Council Arria formula with France, Italy, and Cyprus today on the protection cultural heritage during armed conflicts.
The UAE hosted the meeting because it has a long-standing belief that cultural heritage is both an embodiment and history of a nation, as well as enabling the spread of values such as tolerance, coexistence, and humanity among peoples and countries.
The UAE’s declaration was made by Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab. He is the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN.
Abushahab emphasized that “the destruction or distortion of cultural heritage during armed conflict has serious consequences that threaten the building and maintaining peace.” The Security Council has adopted Resolution 2347 which acknowledges the fact that the destruction of cultural heritage, and attempts to deny the historical roots and diversity of cultures in such a context can fuel and escalate conflicts and hinder reconciliation.
He said, “Resolution 2447 also affirms that, under certain circumstances, the directing of unlawful attacks against sites of cultural heritage may constitute a war crimes, which requires preservation and protection of cultural heritage to maintain international security and peace.”
The UAE has sponsored a number of programmes in recent years to preserve cultural heritage. In partnership with France, the UAE hosted a conference in 2016 on Safeguarding Cultural Heritage. The Abu Dhabi Declaration was the result of the conference, where 40 countries and organisations made a commitment to support the establishment safe havens in conflict zones for cultural heritage.
In 2017, the UAE launched the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas. This alliance has supported cultural heritage initiatives worth US$50 million in over 30 countries.
Rebuilding the ancient city was made possible by the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, a project in which the UAE worked with UNESCO, the European Union and other countries.
The participants in the Arria Formula Meeting reviewed the progress made in implementing Resolution 2347. They also discussed the nature and escalation of armed conflicts in various parts of the world. This requires a constant evaluation of methods to protect cultural assets, their importance in building peaceful societies and how terrorists can use them as a means of financing or spreading hatred. Participants focused on restoring, reconstructing and preserving cultural heritage in order to maintain peace. They also raised awareness among local communities about the importance of this heritage and its role in maintaining security and peace.
The UAE reiterated that the international community has a responsibility to stop the abuse of cultural assets, especially by terrorists and armed groups. They welcomed the opportunity to continue exchanging ideas on how to stop any abuse.
During the Arria formula meeting, Audrey Azoulay was the Director-General of UNESCO. General Vincenzo Molinese is the Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. Omar Al-Taweel is the UNESCO Site Co-ordinator for the initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”.
In her statement, Director General Azoulay stated that the protection of cultural heritage is an important aspect of peacekeeping. She highlighted UNESCO efforts to preserve cultural legacy in Ukraine, Yemen and Iraq and suggested a system for reporting regularly to the Council. General Molinese emphasized the Carabinieri’s efforts to recover illegally exported artifacts via cultural diplomacy, and said that culture was of public benefit worldwide.
Al-Taweel also gave a detailed presentation about the history of Mosul. He detailed Daesh attacks between 2014 and 2017 on the city, which included the destruction the Al-Nabi Yunus Mosque/shrine. He said that the reconstruction and restoration of heritage, such as the “Revive the Spirit Mosul” initiative is an important tool for residents to become agents of change, as well as participate in the rebuilding of the city. It also helps develop the skills of youth, providing them with international experience.