ABU DHABI: Heads of states and governments and representatives of international organisations and private institutions on Saturday reaffirmed their common determination to safeguard the endangered cultural heritage of all peoples, against its destruction and illicit trafficking, and pledged to act against terrorists and extremists attacking cultural diversity that is “a source of collective wealth that encourages dialogue.”
“We have decided to collectively join forces. Today, armed conflicts and terrorism, across all continents are affecting millions of men and women, without sparing their centuries-old heritage. Extremists violently — and often deliberately – attack the cultures of the countries of the people they devastate, seeking to destroy the heritage which belongs to us all,” the leaders said in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the two-day Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference in UAE capital.
The conference is a joint initiative Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and French President Francois Hollande. It supports the global mandate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts.
The leaders pledged to pursue two ambitious, long-term goals to guarantee the further mobilisation of the international community for the safeguarding of heritage.
These include the creation of an international fund for the protection of endangered cultural heritage in armed conflict, and the creation of an international network of safe havens to temporarily safeguard cultural property endangered by armed conflicts or terrorism on their own territory.
The Declaration stressed that world cultural heritage represents the foundation of humanity’s common future and is “a mirror of mankind, a guardian of our collective memory and a witness to the extraordinary creative spirit of humanity.”
“Threatening, attacking, destroying, and looting heritage represents a strategy to weaken the very foundations of the identity of peoples, their history, and the environment in which they build their lives. Without this heritage, their memory is erased and their future is compromised,” the Declaration said.
A number of foreign heads of states, prime ministers, dignitaries, experts and government representatives from more than 40 states attended the session along with Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed, 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.
These included Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait; Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi; Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita; Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya Fayez Al Sarraj; Senegalese Prime Minister Mohammed Abdallah Dionne; Denis Zvizdic, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras; Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn; Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Governor of Makkah Province, Saudi Arabia; Sheikh Nasser bin Isa Al Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain; Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Representative of the Emir of Qatar; Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Yousuf Bin Alawi; Head of the Moroccan Counsellors’ Council Hakim Bin Shammas; Prince Aga Khan, head of the Ismailis.
In the spirit of universality and the principles of the UNESCO conventions, we are committed to pursuing two ambitious, long term, goals to guarantee the further mobilisation of the international community for the safeguarding of heritage:
— The creation of an international fund for the protection of endangered cultural heritage in armed conflict, which would 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 creation of an international network of safe havens to temporarily safeguard cultural property endangered by armed conflicts or terrorism on their own territory, or if they cannot be secured at a national level, in a neighbouring country, or as a last resort, in another country, in accordance with international law at the request of the governments concerned, and taking into account the national and regional characteristics and contexts of cultural property to be protected.
At this conference, we, as Heads of States and Governments, and their Representatives, International Organisations and Private Institutions unite for heritage in support of international efforts to safeguard cultural heritage threatened by armed conflicts and terrorism. A follow up conference in 2017 will help assess the implementation of the initiatives launched in Abu Dhabi and the first projects financed by the international fund.
“We recognise the eminent role of the United Nations and its institutions, and particularly of UNESCO, as the only UN organisation mandated for the protection of culture, and call upon the United Nations Security Council to support us in achieving these goals, in full accordance with the United Nations Charter.”
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French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development – 2016
The President of the French Republic will travel to Abu Dhabi on 2-3 December for the Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage which he will close along with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
This conference is the result of a joint French-United Arab Emirates initiative which has been in preparation for over three years. It is the cultural aspect of the fight already being waged against terrorism militarily and politically.
The President of the French Republic has thus made safeguarding heritage one of the main themes of French cultural diplomacy since February 2013, when he visited Mali with the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova.
That visit provided an opportunity to begin the reconstruction and restoration process of the Timbuktu mausoleums, but also to begin international discussions on how to:
- better safeguard cultural property threatened by conflict;
- preserve the cultural diversity endangered by terrorist fanaticism;
Following his visit to the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities in the Louvre on 18 March 2015, the day on which the Bardo Museum in Tunisia was attacked, the President assigned Jean-Luc Martinez a fact-finding mission. He retained the main guidelines during the UNESCO General Conference on 17 November 2015, just four days after the 13 November attacks.
The Abu Dhabi conference, the principle of which was presented at the Ise-Shima G7 Summit in Japan last May, was prepared in conjunction with the personal representatives of both Heads of State, Jack Lang, President of the Institut du monde arabe (Arab World Institute), and Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. This conference marks both the culmination, so that concrete commitments can be made, and the starting point of a process which will continue into the first half of 2017, with the adoption of a framework resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
The conference will help to put in place new tools to safeguard heritage under threat from terrorism and armed conflict, with: a political statement which commits the 40 participating States to create an international fund open to public and private contributions and an international network of safe havens for endangered cultural property.
The Crown Prince of the UAE worked personally to ensure a high level of representation from the Arab States at the conference on safeguarding heritage, at a time when it is being targeted all over the region by terrorists and fundamentalists. He wanted to ensure that this conference coincide with the UAE National Day.
This event demonstrates the importance of cultural events to the French-UAE relationship. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the strongest symbol of this. The President of the Republic will visit the building which has just been completed, along with architect Jean Nouvel. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first universal museum in the Arab World which will be open to the public in the months ahead. This will be a show of strength in both countries in the fight against extremism and obscurantism, at a time of multiple crises in the Middle East and increased identitarian closure in Western societies.
The President will also visit French troops in the UAE and will commend them on their work which directly contributes to the security of the people of France. He will also hold a meeting with the Crown Prince on the French-UAE defence partnership, which is very close as shown by the “Gulf 2016” exercise which took place throughout November and mobilized 1,400 French soldiers, hundreds of armoured vehicles, about 20 aircraft and a first-rate frigate.
Finally, the President will meet the French community in Abu Dhabi, one of the largest in the Arab World with over 25,000 people.
Source:Diplomatie Gouv France
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