28.06.2017 - UNESCO Office in Brussels

Heritage in Danger: Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage

On Tuesday 27 June 2017 at the Errera House, the official residence of the Flemish Government in Brussels, UNESCO organized an event with Representatives from the European Union and the Flemish Government to present UNESCO’s action to safeguard cultural heritage in Syria.

The UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels organized a follow up event ‘Heritage in Danger: UNESCO actions in Syria’. The event was an occasion to discuss the current status of cultural heritage in regions in conflict, and share the results of the UNESCO project ‘Emergency safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage’, which is funded by the Directorate General Neighbourhood and Enlargement (NEAR) of the European Union, the Government of Flanders and Austria.

Under the flagship of the #Unite4Heritage campaign launched by UNESCO Director-General in 2015, the event hosted speakers from UNESCO and the European Union: moderated by Lazare Eloundou Assomo, UNESCO Deputy-Director World Heritage Centre, the speakers included Koen Verlaeckt, Secretary-General of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs; Silvia Costa, Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur of the report ‘Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations’; Maciej Popowski, Deputy Director General DG NEAR; Silvio Gonzato, Director for Strategic Communication, Parliamentary Affairs and General Affairs at the European External Action Service; and Cristina Menegazzi, UNESCO Project Officer for Syria.

Lazare Assomo opened the event by highlighting the important partnership between UNESCO, the European Union and the Government of Flanders to raise awareness about the value of cultural heritage, but also to carry out concrete actions to safeguard and recover cultural heritage under threat. Silvio Gonzato reminded the audience that for the Brussels Conference on Syria in April 2017, HRVP Mogherini chose to host an exhibition highlighting culture, ‘which was a strategic choice to highlight the central role of cultural identity in conflicts’.

Koen Verlaeckt explained that the UNESCO project on cultural heritage in Syria represents a success story by demonstrating what can be achieved when various stakeholders join forces. In addition, he launched the UNESCO brochure ‘Cultural Diversity under Attack: Protecting Heritage for Peace’, expressing his conviction that it represents a step forward in raising awareness of the importance of this topic.

On behalf of the European Parliament, Silvia Costa expressed her strong support for the EU Strategy on International Cultural Relations which she sees as a benchmark to make culture the fourth pillar of sustainable development. In her view, the 2018 European Year of Culture will be an opportunity to push for the mainstreaming of culture in all thematics discussed at the European-level.

DG NEAR’s Maciej Popowski underlined EU’s commitment to the protection of cultural heritage as ‘the glue for social cohesion’, but stressed that there is also an important economic aspect to the protection of culture which needs to be made visible as ‘culture means input’.

Cristina Menegazzi presented the outputs of the UNESCO project ‘Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage’. Through a three-pronged approach to monitor and assess the cultural heritage situation in Syria, the project produces knowledge and documentation, uses national and international communication and awareness-raising efforts, as well as capacity building activities for national stakeholders and beneficiaries to work towards the mitigation of the destruction and loss of Syrian cultural heritage.

Download the brochure of the outputs of the project here.

Photo gallery of the event.


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