25.11.2016 - Culture Sector

UNESCO trains Malian Armed Forces and Security on Protection of Cultural Heritage

Workshop at the National Museum of Mali ©UNESCO/ Modibo Bagayoko

Cultural heritage has been threatened by destruction, looting, and illicit trafficking since the beginning of the Malian crisis in 2012. On 16 and 17 November 2016, sections of the Malian army and security forces were brought together at the National Museum of Mali in Bamako for a UNESCO Workshop on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict.

Protecting cultural heritage is a matter of peace and security, directly linked to the protection of human lives. With focus on how to implement the 1954 Hague Convention and its two protocols (1954 and 1999), thirty representatives from Mali’s army, security, customs, and the local and national police had a training encompassing preventive measures, emergency situations, and museum security, putting the Convention into perspective with practical dimensions that included unique access to cultural property.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague decreed that the destruction of heritage is a war crime.  This was an outcome of the case of Ahmad Al-Faqui Al Mahdi who was condemned in August 2016 for the destruction of nine of the mausoleums of Timbuktu and the door of the Sidi Yahia Mosque in 2012 and 2013. Since army and security forces are at the forefront of the conflict, they play a vital role in protecting people and cultural heritage. Various legal instruments adopted by the international community frame this important task. It is within the framework of capacity-building and support to Member States that UNESCO, in collaboration with the Malian Government, is organizing several awareness-raising and training workshops for the military to familiarize them with the tools at their disposal for ensuring protection of citizens and cultural property.

Many of the participants were involved in military operations in northern Mali and the workshop led to a reflection on the necessity of integrating military intervention protocols and strategies on the protection of cultural property at all levels of the command chain. The participants adopted proposals for the attention of the Malian Government, calling for the implementation of a number of measures promoting the protection of cultural heritage and including a capacity-building program for the National Defense and National Customs which would integrate teaching modules on heritage protection and UNESCO cultural conventions in training schools.

The workshop was organized with the National Directorate of Cultural Heritage (DNPC) and supported by the Ministry of Culture of Mali.  It was chaired by  Ms N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo, the Minister of Culture in Mali. Another UNESCO training from 21 – 26 November with the army features the importance of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, in collaboration with the Ministry of Security, EUCAP-Sahel Mali, and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF). 

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