The 4th Plenary Session of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Cultural Heritage (ICC Iraq)
On 12 January 2010 in Paris, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ms. Francoise Riviere, and H.E. Kawa Shaker, Minister of Culture and Youth in Kurdistan Region Government, on behalf of the Iraqi Minister of Culture, inaugurated the 4th Plenary Session of the International Coordination Committee for Safeguarding of the Iraqi Cultural Heritage.
Further to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Plenary Sessions of the International Coordination Committee for Safeguarding the Cultural Heritage of Iraq (ICC Iraq), held at UNESCO Headquarters in May 2004, June 2005 and November 2007 respectively, the 4th Session took place on the 12th and 13th January 2010 at the same venue.
The 4th ICC Session, as announced, was attended by a large Iraqi Delegation lead by H.E. Maher Al- Hadithi, Minister of Culture and Youth in the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG). (ICC Iraq)
Fifteen international experts specialized in different fields of Iraqi heritage, the Members of ICC Iraq, as well as twelve observers representing well known and respected international institutions such are ICCROM, ICOM, INTERPOL, Centro Di Scavi di Torino, and World Monument Fund (WMF) participated in the forum. UNESCO Member States were also represented by the Permanent Delegations of Japan, the United States of America, Turkey and Poland.
The Programme of 4th ICC was built around four major discussion topics. Three topics were organized as round table discussions with key speakers, panelists and open discussion. The topics of those Round Tables were:
- Historic Cities and Urban Development;
- The Museum Sector in Iraq;
- Fighting against Looting and Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.
The fourth working session was dedicated to the intangible heritage of Iraq.
The Plenary Session of ICC was preceded by a meeting of the ICC Babylon Sub-Committee on 11 January that reviewed and approved the Final Report on Damage Assessment in Babylon. (Babylon 2nd Sub-Committee)
The members of the ICC praised the achievements of the Government of Iraq, under the prevailing circumstances, in protecting and rehabilitating the Iraqi cultural heritage. They emphasized as well the dedication of the Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), the organization in Iraq that is mandated with protecting, preserving and studying Iraq’s rich tangible cultural heritage, as well as the efforts of all other cultural institutions in Iraq.
The experts’ contributions during the debates was well acknowledged by the Iraqis, and they also stressed that UNESCO should continue to act as an international coordinator for the purpose of protecting, conserving and promoting the precious cultural heritage of the country, aptly described by the KRG Minister of Culture and Youth as “representing the identity of this country…a beautiful combination of different cultural spectra, Kurdish, Arabic, Yezidi, Mandean and Turkoman."
At the end of the sessions, the Members of the ICC agreed upon twenty recommendations with a view to the themes of the meeting. Key among these was to improve the coordination and communication among the various governmental institutions at national and local levels, and in particular between the SBAH and local authorities.
The closure of the ICC was followed by an official ceremony for the signature of two important agreements related to the conservation and restoration of archaeological sites and historical districts of Iraqi cities. As mentioned by Dr Ihsan Fethi, an Iraqi Conservation Architect, “Many precious historical cities inside Iraq deserve to be protected and preserved against the modern urbanization, to save their historical identity”.
The first involves a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the Director of UNESCO Iraq Office, Mr. Mohamed Djelid and Mr. Ahmed A. Krayem, Deputy Governor of Salah Al-Din, to develop a conservation management plan for the city of Samara that ensures the conservation of the historic urban center, balancing the needs of the community with those of the visitors of the Holy sites. This would expand further UNESCO’s involvement in the city, which has to date concentrated on the Rehabilitation of the Holy Al-Askari Shrine following its bombing in 2006.
The Director of the Office also signed with Mr. Salman Naser Al-Zarqani, Governor of Babylon a Letter of Intent confirming both partners' commitment to the joint initiative “Restoration of the Babylon site”. The Parties hereby agree on the activities which they will respectively and jointly undertake in order to ensure the conservation and restoration of Babylon site with the principal objective being its eventual inclusion on the World Heritage List.