23.01.2019 - UNESCO Office in Amman

Culture in Crisis – Ms. Costanza Farina Speaks at International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan


Your Royal Highness, Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal,


Distinguished participants,

It is both a real honour and a pleasure to be delivering this address at the “International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan”, in the presence of so many dignitaries and committed professionals, with patronage graciously extended by HRH Prince El-Hassan bin Talal.

The setting for this year’s conference could not be more idyllic. Florence, the cradle of the renaissance, renowned for its culture, art, monuments and architecture, is truly one of the most charming/fascinating cities in the world. We are definitely all very fortunate to be gathered here.

Organized every three years, this conference is of primary importance for the scientific community of archaeologists and historians who, at an international level, are interested in Jordan, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the long-term Euro-Mediterranean cultural relations.

The conference is due to the intellectual vision and leadership of HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, one of the world's leading figures, and an incredibly inspiring Jordanian example who we are honoured to have in attendance today.

This years’ theme “Culture in Crisis: flows of People, Artifacts and Ideas”, serves to add value to the scientific commitment to interpret ‘crisis’ as an accelerator of historical processes and a means of dispersing creative energy among social and cultural groups.

Across the Middle East in particular, conflict and upheaval continue to plague large swaths of the region resulting in death, destruction and displacement. Collectively, we have borne witness to culture becoming a victim of conflict as UNESCO World Heritage sites are attacked and destroyed, as collateral damage or intentionally.

These sites represent the historical fabric of our societies and exemplify the concept that heritage carries outstanding universal value.

Archaeology is a process; a historical, technological, and a human one. During conferences such as these, it is strategically important to recall the need to further pursue archaeological research in the Middle East and in particular in Jordan due to its historical richness and many uncharted discoveries. It is also very critical that this conference is providing a forum for exchange of knowledge and experience, exploring new venues for cooperation and new ideas.

UNESCO recognizes that cultural heritage goes beyond monuments and collections of objects, serving as a bridge between generations and peoples and providing a source of resilience to vulnerable populations.

We have seen first-hand how ongoing war and hostilities can also hinder the preservation efforts of our Intangible Cultural Heritage. The chaos of conflict disrupts efforts to safeguard the traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.

The historical richness of these customs, including oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and traditional crafts, suffers tremendously under this threat.

Aligned with this approach, I salute the theme of this conference: “Culture in Crisis: flows of People, Artifacts and Ideas” for its comprehensive and innovative focus that is inclusive of persons and intellectual goods, alongside archeological sites and monuments.

The sheer extent of “culture in crisis”, resulting from the magnitude of global conflicts and disasters, can feel overwhelming. UNESCO’s reaction to this threat has largely been to confront these challenges by framing culture as a key element of societal prosperity and as a vehicle for progress.

Allow me to mention one very recent example where UNESCO has been particularly engaged, collaborating with the Iraqi government, rallying the international community around a major initiative of the UNESCO Director-General to “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”.

Once a living symbol of pluralistic identity, Mosul was devastated over the course of three years of conflict. UNESCO recognizes the significance of restoring architectural symbols that bring the Iraqi people together, putting people and culture at the heart of the recovery efforts.

UNESCO’s experience shows that in the wake of conflicts, crises and disasters, communities everywhere share a basic need to reconnect with their culture – as a means of reasserting their identities and as a source of reconciliation, resilience and hope.

These efforts, no matter how robust, do not – and cannot- serve to “replace” the enormous cultural heritage losses we have witnessed in the past years, which regretfully remain irreversible. We cannot forget them. They represent attacks on pluralism and ultimately strive to eliminate the voices of peace.

Moving forward, it is essential that we harness new technologies (like 3D printing) to discover, protect, document and restore cultural heritage using appropriate approaches.

We must remember that the great civilizations of the Arab region defined the course of humanity, through a thousand-year dialogue, which gave birth to science, writing, mathematics and law. Working with local counterparts to ensure that future generations develop a profound understanding of their proud heritage and stronger cultural ownership, works to strengthen preservation efforts.

While our world seems increasingly turbulent, with conflicts changing shape, frontlines shifting and culture under attack, we have seen how culture can act as a force of resilience, a source of strength to face adversity.

We must not forget culture’s power to transform and uplift, creating cohesion in communities and building open, inclusive, knowledge societies.

Allow me to reiterate that in emergencies, culture is truly a key humanitarian, security and integral peacebuilding element, which must be given priority together with political, economic and military strategies for peace, recovery and reconstruction.

UNESCO has been strategically working in partnership with global humanitarian actors to integrate the extraordinary soft power of culture into humanitarian policies and operations, thus influencing their impact.

In this spirit, I wish you productive engagement throughout this important conference and I very much look forward to participating in the stimulating sessions over the coming four days.

Let me conclude by saying, on behalf of UNESCO, that I would like to sincerely express appreciation and gratitude for the trust bestowed upon UNESCO by the Italian Government who has selected us as a partner of choice for several cultural heritage initiatives in Jordan, and in particular in Petra. These programmes will be illustrated by my colleagues and relevant panelists in the coming days, highlighting the strategic scope and added value of these innovative programs in support of national institutions.

Finally, I would like to recognize and thank the organizers of this conference for hosting us in Florence and for providing UNESCO with the opportunity to address this distinguished audience.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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