Expert Meeting – Safeguarding Libyan Cultural Heritage

© UNESCO/F. BandarinArchaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Libya)

9 to 11 May 2016, Tunis, Tunisia

A three-day international expert meeting on “Safeguarding Libyan Cultural Heritage” was held in Tunis to develop a shared understanding of issues involving the preservation of cultural heritage in Libya, including archaeological sites, museums and built heritage organized by UNESCO and ICCROM with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Libya and in close cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Libya and several Libyan institutions.  

The meeting was an opportunity to explore the scope of culture and how it can support reconciliation, social cohesion through promoting dialogue. Its outcome was the adoption of an Action Plan to address emergency and short-term interventions for the safeguarding of Libya’s cultural heritage, which defines medium and long-term shared actions with the participation of national and international stakeholders. To achieve these goals emphasis was given to the role of civil society and, in particular, youth.  

In relation to the fight against illicit trafficking, the Action Plan includes:

  • Strengthening capacities of national actors on:

    • national legislation and international legal tools;
    • preventive measures;
    • documentation and inventories;
  • better monitoring of the art market especially focused on online sales, including social media;
  • increase information sharing with relevant nationality and international authorities;
  • improve the police database of stolen cultural objects; 
  • launch further awareness raising campaigns and materials.

More than 80 participants attended the meeting, including 30 Libyan representatives from various institutions in Libya: the Ministry of Culture, local municipalities, the Department of Antiquities, the Historic Cities Authority, the National Archives in Tripoli, the Directorate of Customs, Tourist and Antiquities Police, criminal investigative police, universities, the Intangible Heritage Centre in Saba, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Libya.  

Other participants included UNESCO’s institutional partners INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, UNITAR/UNOSAT, ICOMOS, ICOM, ALECSO, the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institution, international archaeological missions, and scientific and conservation entities operating in Libya, as well as the Prince Claus Foundation.  

At the closing of the meeting, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya closed the meeting by highlighting the central role of culture and identity in the context of Libya, and the necessity to protect cultural heritage from illicit trafficking and intentional destruction. “Culture is a soft power” - he said – “it shall be brought high up in the agenda of the ongoing reconciliation process.” 

Back to top