The Greek Government's Initiative for the National Museum of Afghanistan
An important step towards the rehabilitation of Afghanistan's cultural infrastructure.
As a result of the civil war in the 1990s, the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul was severely damaged and a substantial portion of its collections looted and deliberately vandalized. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the reconstruction of the building became one of the highest priorities of the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture in order to re-establish the museum as the rightful custodian of a significant part of Afghanistan's national cultural heritage.
In May 2002, at the "International Seminar on the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage", organized by UNESCO and the Afghan authorities, the Government of Greece pledged US $750,000 for the rehabilitation of the country's cultural heritage. To date, the Greek fund has been spent bilaterally in a number of areas including the reconstruction of the cultural infrastructure of the country (e.g., the National Theatre, the National Gallery and the National Museum).
UNESCO, as the only international agency with a mandate in the field of culture, in cooperation with several other donors, namely the Governments of Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, channelled $150,000 from the Greek contribution to Afghanistan for the reconstruction of the National Museum building, including emergency measures aimed at installing doors and windows on the ground floor and providing electric power to complete the restoration of offices, exhibition spaces and storage areas. The efforts of the international community coordinated by UNESCO resulted in the official re-opening of the National Museum in October 2004 by President Hamid Karzaï.
Although the museum is now functioning once again, some construction work is still needed in order to ensure the security of Afghanistan’s important archaeological and ethnographic collections and to make the building a fitting centre of the nation's cultural activity. To this end, the Greek Government is now channelling the final instalment (US $350,000) of their contribution through UNESCO for further reconstruction work on the building and grounds. In the 2006-2007 biennium, UNESCO will coordinate activities to improve the security of the building, repair the remaining storage areas, enhance the environmental conditions of the collections, create outdoor exhibition spaces and rehabilitate and landscape the museum's gardens for the pleasure of visitors. Important vocational training and capacity-building initiatives will also take place during this period.
The initiatives of UNESCO and the Government of Greece represent an important step towards the rehabilitation of Afghanistan's cultural infrastructure. In this context, the National Museum will regain its role as a centre for disseminating knowledge on the great artistic and archaeological heritage as well as the rich cultural diversity of Afghanistan and Central Asia. The completion of these activities in 2007 will enable the museum, in its capacity as an educational institution serving the Afghan public as well as the entire international community, to play an increasingly significant role in the country's reconstruction process.