12.12.2017 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

UNESCO Beirut launches the national campaign “#Our_heritage_is_not_for_sale”

Under the patronage of the Minister of Culture, Dr. Ghattas Khoury, UNESCO Beirut, in partnership with the Directorate General of Antiquities at the Ministry of Culture, held on 12 December 2017 a press conference to launch the National Campaign against the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property in Lebanon, under the title “Our heritage is not for sale”, at the National Museum in Beirut.

This campaign aims to raise awareness among the Lebanese public about the values of cultural heritage and the need to protect it for future generations. It focuses on the fact that a country's cultural property is not merely a commodity traded in world markets, it is an embodiment of its history and the identity of its people. Its loss due to theft and illicit trafficking can lead to the disintegration of societies or their inability to develop and recover, especially after crises.

The event started with the speech of Dr Hamed Al Hammami, director of UNESCO Beirut, who declared that: “The practices of theft and illicit trafficking of cultural property have become pervasive in our societies today”, stressing the need to develop efficient instruments for the protection of heritage and cultural property. Al Hammami stressed that: “The phenomenon of illegal trafficking in cultural property is one of the main concerns of UNESCO, which established in 1970 a convention on measures to prevent and stop the illegal import, export and transfer of cultural property”, adding that “protecting cultural heritage today is a fundamental step towards building peace in the future”. Al Hammami emphasized the commitment of UNESCO Beirut to “assist and support public administrations and institutions in order to build and develop their capabilities to combat the illicit trafficking in cultural property”. He added that the National Campaign “Our Heritage is Not for Sale” was designed “to express our concern and the concern of the community about the current looting of the Lebanese and Arab archaeological heritage, especially in the context of ongoing wars”. Al-Hammami thanked the Minister of Culture and the General Directorate of Antiquities for their cooperation with UNESCO. He ended his speech by asserting: “Our cultural heritage is our treasure, which Lebanon has stored for thousands of years. Let us preserve it, not only for us, but for humanity as a whole, especially for our children and grandchildren in the future”.

In his speech, Dr Ghattas Khoury, the Minister of Culture, assured that “the Ministry of Culture has not hesitated in recent years to return stolen antiquities from Iraq and Syria, which have been seized on Lebanese territory and at the border, in accordance with humanitarian principles and international conventions”. Khoury called for the establishment of a “regional framework to coordinate the action of Arab countries in their common fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property”, and for “the design and implementation of legislations that punish both the thief and the buyer”. Khoury also called on Arab countries to establish an inventory of their stolen cultural properties and to make it public, in order to facilitate a quick restoration of these properties. Khoury thanked UNESCO Beirut for their commitment in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property, and for their efficient collaboration with the Directorate General of Antiquities.

The speeches were followed by the official launch of the campaign through showcasing a TV ad about Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property, that will be disseminated to all TV channels in Lebanon and broadcast on UNESCO Beirut’s social media channels.

To view the ad: in EN  in AR

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