28.05.2020 - Culture Sector

Increased coordination needed to protect culture in conflict zones during the COVD-19 crisis

On the occasion of the 66th anniversary of the1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, on 14 May 2020, an online meeting was convened by UNESCO to discuss threats to cultural heritage in conflict zones in the context of COVID-19 and how to increase coordination and impacts of international support measures in conflict-stricken countries.

The meeting brought together representatives of the Blue Shield International (BSI), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), International Council on Monuments and Sites and International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICOMOS), International Council on Archives (ICA) and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Mr Lazare Eloundou, Director of Culture and Emergencies Entity of UNESCO, opened the meeting with a warning that “the effects of the global health crisis in conflict zones is detrimental to communities lives and cultural heritage” and stressed the importance of joining forces to protect lives and preserve culture. He presented the initiative of launching an online coordination group among actors operating at the global and regional level to safeguard cultural heritage in conflict zones.

Mr Benjamin Charlier of the ICRC, presented information on the difficulties of delivering humanitarian assistance in conflict areas and stressed the challenges in balancing the ongoing operational work of ICRC with other COVID-related responses. Professor Peter Stone of BSI also expressed concerns about the distruption of capacity-building activities which weakens ties among stakeholders.  He called on the cultural sector to engage further with the military to render technical assistance whenever neccesary.

Ms Sophie Delepierre from ICOM, explained how her organization is adapting to the change and working to keep international network and partnership close during this unprecendented crisis.

The particpants’ interventions highlighted the importance of information exchange, coordination and collaboration, especially in countries suffering from armed conflicts. To this end, the initiative of establishing an online coordination group was welcomed and UNESCO was requested to take this initative forward.

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