An international Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage
was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on 2-3 December. Among its results was the establishment of a new International Fund for the Protection of Cultural Heritage
, with an initial contribution by France of USD 30 million and the objective to collect USD 100 million.
The conference was the result of a joint French-United Arab Emirates initiative
which had been in preparation for over three years, and was held under the patronage of UNESCO. Efforts are due to continue in the near future, with a framework resolution on the protection of cultural heritage expected to be adopted at the United Nations Security Council in the first half of 2017.
The conference brought together Heads of State and Ministers from over 40 countries, as well as representatives from international organisations and museums
. Among those attending were the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; the President of France, François Hollande; and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
The resulting Abu Dhabi Declaration
also proposes the establishment of an international network of safe havens to temporarily safeguard cultural property endangered by armed conflicts
or terrorism on their own territory, or if necessary in another country.
Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed
recalled the importance of culture to build resilient societies: “the world has a shared responsibility for protecting human cultural heritage
”. He called on all participants to strengthen commitment against illicit trafficking of cultural property, which is weakening identities and contributes to the financing of terrorism.
Referring to the new Fund, French President François Hollande
said that “This Fund will provide much needed resources to protect heritage under attack, and will be managed in close coordination with UNESCO, in respect of UNESCO Cultural Conventions and International Norms.” He also argued that "This is a call to action, as there is not greater responsibility than that of building bridges between the past and the future of humanity
“Over the past recent years, we have built a new cultural landscape, a new approach for the protection of heritage as a key security issue,” stated UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “This initiative and the creation of this Fund break new ground. It sends a powerful signal of hope and I see this as the starting point of something larger - a new commitment for culture, education, human dignity," said Bokova, highlighting also UNESCO’s recent achievements in Mali and other countries as well as the importance of coordinated approach for the safeguarding of heritage.
The full Abu Dhabi Declaration on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage is available at http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/cultural-diplomacy/events/article/conference-on-safeguarding-endangered-cultural-heritage-abu-dhabi-declaration