International push aims to protect endangered heritage
02 Dec 2016 - 23:18
Abu Dhabi: Representatives from dozens of countries began a meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday to discuss the creation of a $100m fund to protect and restore heritage sites threatened by extremism and conflict.
The two-day conference reflects growing international alarm over the destruction of ancient artefacts by Islamic State group militants using sledgehammers, bulldozers and explosives. It opened with calls by its Emirati, French and UN initiators for joint action to safeguard cultural treasures in danger. "To succeed, we need to work together... united for heritage," Unesco Director Irina Bokova said.
Protecting heritage "is inseparable from protecting human life", she said, describing its deliberate destruction as a "war crime".
The chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Mohamed Al Mubarak, expressed optimism that international initiative would "help change the course of history".
On the eve of the meeting, five Nobel prize winners launched an appeal for urgent action to safeguard world heritage sites, pointing to the irreparable damage wreaked in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Mali. "Part of our history has been lost forever, with the goal of fanaticism being to undermine our hope for the future," said the statement from Aung San Suu Kyi, Kofi Annan, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Orhan Pamuk and Mario Vargas Llosa.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says 55 out of a total of 1,052 heritage sites around the world are listed as "World Heritage in Danger."
They include the Crac des Chevaliers castle and the ruins of Palmyra in Syria, the archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, the Old City of Sanaa in Yemen, and Timbuktu in Mali.