FLORENCE, MARCH 30 – The protection of cultural heritage in crisis areas and the fight against illicit trafficking of works of art are the priorities of the G7 Ministerial meeting on Culture, which is underway on March 30-31 in Florence. The G7 commitment is part of Unite4Heritage, an initiative launched in 2015 by UNESCO to exhort Member States to take initiatives to enhance and protect the cultural heritage – preserving it from damages in war zones – and to educate young people worldwide to promote culture as a tool for integration, growth, and sustainable development.
As part of Unite4Heritage, Italy has launched a proposal to establish a task force to protect the world’s artistic heritage. In February 2016 a memorandum between the Italian Foreign Ministry and UNESCO has established the so-called “blue helmets of Culture”, a rapid response team with highly qualified staff composed of members of Carabinieri’s Cultural Heritage Protection Unit, art historians, scholars and restorers. Their function is to assess the risks and quantify the damage to cultural heritage, develop action plans and urgent measures, supervise technical training for local national staff, provide assistance to the transfer of goods in safe shelters and strengthen the fight against looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods. “The so-called ‘blue helmets of culture’ are on the agenda of Thursday’s meeting”, the Minister for Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini said today.
A few days ago, on the eve of the Florence ministerial meeting, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2347 presented by Italy and France on the protection of cultural heritage during conflicts. The resolution condemns the destruction and looting of archaeological sites, museums, archives, libraries and the trafficking in cultural goods financing international terrorism. It also welcomes the proposal to provide, when requested, a cultural component within the UN peacekeeping missions. All issues that these days will be addressed by the G7 Culture as well. “Concrete steps have already been taken. I hope that new commitments will come from Florence”, Franceschini added pointing out “what’s happening in Syria, the destructions of centuries of histories by ISIS is under everybody’s eyes”.
It’s the first time that a G7 is preceded by another ministerial meeting devoted entirely to cultural issues, the Italian Minister remarked, adding that the agenda of the two-days event will include also “the role of culture as instrument of dialogue, a driver for integration, peace building and sustainable development”.
Held in the wake of the historic adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2347/2017 on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the event of Armed Conflict, the meeting is an opportunity to reiterate that defending culture is inseparable from the protection of human lives, UNESCO said. Director-General Irina Bokova, who first launched #Unite4Heritage campaign in 2015 in Baghdad, is attending the meeting. “Thank you Italy for strong political leadership on heritage for peace and dialogue”, she said on Twitter. Other participants included Mélanie Joly, Minister of Culture of Canada; Audrey Azoulay (France); Maria Böhmer (Germany);Commissione Ryohei Miyata (Japan); Karen Bradley (UK); the Undersecretary of State Bruce Wharton (USA); and Tibor Navracsis, UE Commissioner for Culture. (@alebal)