(by Alessandra Baldini)
NEW YORK, MARCH 24 – A few days before the G7 of Culture on March 30 and 31 in Florence, Italy brought home a “historic” resolution for the protection of cultural heritage from wars and terroristic attacks. “It’s a big success for our country”, the Minister of Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini said of the unanimous vote of the UN Security Council on a text introduced by Italy and France. It’s the first time ever that the Councils adopts a comprehensive approach that deals with all the issues stemming from the deliberate attacks against monuments and historic artifacts such as those recently witnessed by the international community in Iraq, Syria, Mali. The unanimous support to Resolution 2347 reflects a new recognition of the importance of heritage protection for peace and security.
“The destruction of cultural heritage, notably by terrorist groups and organized criminal networks, is a sorrow reality and this resolution addresses it with clear language and concrete operational measures. But this issue has a broader relevance in the maintenance of international peace and security, one that goes beyond attacks by terrorist groups”, the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Enzo Amendola told the Council immediately after the vote.
The resolution is a balanced instrument that addresses both preventive initiatives and measures devoted to counter illegal excavations as well as the looting of and trafficking in cultural heritage at the domestic and international levels. States are encouraged to adopt appropriate measures in line with their national system and with international framework and standards. Harmonized legislations and coordinated operational solutions are indispensable to provide effective responses. The Security Council is committing itself and the dedicated UN bodies to assist Member States and to strengthen all forms of cooperation. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Council, saying that the resolution adopted today aims to strengthen international cooperation to deprive terrorists of funding and to protect cultural heritage as a symbol of understanding and respect for all religions, beliefs and cultures.
“Integrating the cultural dimension into the prevention and settlement of conflicts is not only a moral obligation: it is also a political and security imperative”, Amendola said during the meeting asserting the fact that protection of cultural heritage “is a longstanding pillar of Italian foreign policy”, while Italy is at the forefront of international efforts to safeguard and protect cultural heritage, also thanks to the specialized unit of the Carabinieri TPC: “An internationally recognized model of excellence”.
General Fabrizio Parrulli, of the Carabinieri Italiani and the Unite4heritage task force shared the latest data on illicit trafficking, recalling that over 800,000 artefacts have been seized since 1969 by Italian forces in the fight against the financing of criminal activities. “Together with UNESCO, we are now working on a stand–by agreement that will allow the deployment of the Unite4Heritage Task Force overseas under the UN flag”, he announced. Meanwhile the Carabinieri’s experts are liaising on a bilateral basis with several Countries, including, most recently, Iraq. Parrulli himself was just at the UNESCO field Office in Baghdad to identify venues of cooperation to address archaeological areas devastated and looted by ISIS.
“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, it has become a tactic of war to tear societies over the long term, in a strategy of cultural cleansing. This is why defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives,” Director-General Irina Bokova told the Council, as she spoke in support of the resolution. “Weapons are not enough to defeat violent extremism. Building peace requires culture also; it requires education, prevention, and the transmission of heritage. This is the message of this historic resolution,” she added.
The briefing by Director-General Bokova before the Security Council marked the first time a Director-General of UNESCO has been invited in this capacity. The briefing was held at the initiative of France and Italy and under the Presidency of the United Kingdom.