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The Security Council Welcomes Actions by UNESCO to preserve Cultural Heritage Sites in Peril

The United Nations Security Council adopted unanimously resolution 2347 which is the first ever resolution adopted by the 15 member states Council to focus on Cultural heritage. The unanimous support to the Resolution reflects a new recognition of the importance of heritage protection for peace and security. UNESCO is guardian of a wide array of legal instruments that are of vital importance in the protection of cultural heritage. These include the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property on the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and its two Protocols, as well as the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).

This Resolution has been described as ‘historic’ by UN Security Council Member States. Having witnessed the unprecedented level of looting and destruction of the cultural property, in particular in light of the shocking events in Syria, Iraq, Mali and other countries, the global community expressed its commitment to work together to prevent these heinous acts through this Security Council Resolution.

Briefing members after the text’s adoption, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said the destruction of cultural heritage was a war crime and tactic of war, and that defending that heritage was a security imperative. From Palmyra to the Shrine of Mosul, cultural heritage sites were symbols of unity, bearing witness to the dialogue of cultures that had always existed, she said, adding: “Violent extremists know this, and that is why they seek to destroy it.”

To attack the scourge, some 50 States, working with UNESCO, had strengthened their legislation and were sharing data to dismantle trafficking routes, she said. Furthermore, UNESCO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), customs services, the private sector and museums were also coordinating action to protect cultural heritage. Council resolution 2199 (2015), which prohibited the trade in cultural property from Iraq and Syria and called upon Member States to cooperate in ending it, was yielding quick results.

Audrey Azoulay, France’s Minister for Culture and Communication, noting the direct link between the financing of terrorist groups and the illicit trade of cultural goods, welcomed the establishment of cultural safe havens and the international fund to protect at-risk cultural heritage. France would continue to do its part, he said, including by financing the protection of cultural heritage.

Italy’s Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincenzo Amendola, said that his country, as a partner in the global coalition against Da’esh, intended to promote swift implementation of Council resolution 2199 (2015), raise awareness on the need to protect cultural heritage and increase security at heritage sites.

Representatives of Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Sweden, Uruguay, Egypt, Russian Federation, China, United States, Ethiopia, Japan, Senegal and the United Kingdom also addressed the Council.

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