Expert Meeting on the ‘Responsibility to Protect’, (Paris, 26-27 November 2015)

In light of the egregious intentional destruction and misappropriation of cultural heritage in the ongoing armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria, a phenomenon described by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova as ‘cultural cleansing’,[1] the need for deeper discussion and evaluation of the concept of the ‘responsibility to protect’ has emerged.

In response to this, the Secretariat organized an expert meeting to exchange ideas on the application of the doctrine of the ‘responsibility to protect’ to the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflict and to draft recommendations for the Director-General.

The meeting moderated by Professor Roger O’Keefe, Professor of Public International Law at University College London, took place on 26-27 November 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters. It was attended by 22 experts and representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, including Mr Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.

The Meeting resulted in the adoption of recommendations among them that UNESCO Member States and the UNESCO Secretariat give due consideration to the idea of ‘safe havens’ for cultural property situated in states outside the conflict zone and to the idea of ‘cultural protected zones’.

Final Report ENFR

Recommendations ENFR

List of Participants


[1] REPORT, Heritage and Cultural Diversity at Risk in Iraq and Syria, International Conference, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris 3 December 2014.      www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CLT/CLT/pdf/IraqSyriaReport-en.pdf

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