12.12.2013 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

Support continues for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan- 12th Expert Working Group for Safeguarding the Bamiyan Valley meets in Italy

The 12th Expert Working Group meeting for the Preservation of the Bamiyan World Heritage Site in Afghanistan is being held in Orvieto, Italy from 10th -11th December 2013. The Mayor of Orvieto, Mr. Antonio Concina, opened the ceremony organized by UNESCO and the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA). H.E. Dr. Sayed Makhdoum Raheen, Minister of Information and Culture Afghanistan, H.E. Ambassador of Italy to Afghanistan, Mr. Luciano Pezzotti, Mr. Ghulam Ali Wahdat, the Governor of Bamiyan, Mr. Khadem Hossein Fetrat, the Mayor of Bamiyan, Mr. Alessandro Gaudiano, Chief of the Task Forces for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Iraq at the Italian Development Cooperation Office and Mr. Paolo Fontani, Director and Representative, UNESCO Office in Afghanistan are among the key speakers at this two-day meeting.

The Bamiyan Expert Working Group was formed in 2002 to coordinate all cultural projects related to the World Heritage Property of the Bamiyan. The aim of the meeting is to provide guidance on heritage projects, infrastructure and development plans for Bamiyan in the short and long term as well as to look at the broader spectrum of heritage management challenges facing Bamiyan and its community. The discussions also emphasize the role of culture in sustainable development and peace building in Afghanistan.

During his stay in Rome, the Minister of Information and Culture of Afghanistan, accompanied by UNESCO representatives, held a meeting, on the 9th of December, with Hon. Prof. Lapo Pistelli, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic. The Afghan and Italian authorities discussed the future of Italian aid for the safeguarding of cultural heritage in Afghanistan. In his first statement, the Minister of Culture of Afghanistan thanked the Italian people and the government for their tremendous technical and financial assistance in preserving the cultural heritage of Ghazni and Herat from the 1960s and more recently in Bamiyan. The Italian Deputy Minister underlined that Italy would remain a loyal partner to Afghanistan assisting the government in the safeguarding of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. Italy is one of the main donors in the field of culture in Afghanistan, bilaterally and through UNESCO. Over the past year, the Italian government funded US$2.4 million through UNESCO, for the preservation of Bamiyan and Herat. H.E. Professor Lapo Pistelli also mentioned the important role cultural heritage has in shaping the national identity of the people of Afghanistan, which will directly contribute to peace building and nation building.

In March 2001, two Buddha statues located in the Bamiyan valley, dating back to the mid sixth and the early seventh century AD, were destroyed by the Taliban. This destruction led to the mobilization of the international community to safeguard the remains of this outstanding example of Afghan heritage. These unique Buddhist monuments together with multiple monumental sites in the Bamiyan Valley are from different Islamic periods in the history of Afghanistan. The outstanding value of the cultural landscape in Bamiyan was recognized by the World Heritage Committee and the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003. At that time, the valley was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to ongoing challenges to conservation and development of the site. Over the past decade, UNESCO and the Government of Afghanistan have worked in partnership to safeguard the site with generous contributions from the Government of Japan, Switzerland and Italy.

In 2013 the Government of Italy began conservation of the site of Shar-i-Gholghlah with UNESCO and the Ministry of Information and Culture. Contributions to the conservation and development of the property and international cooperation for cultural heritage and sustainable development in Bamiyan are set to expand greatly in 2014 with contribution from the Republic of Korea for the development of a Cultural Centre. There is also cooperation with a number of UN agencies, including UNOPS and UNEP on roads and environmental management for the World Heritage property as well as collaboration with the World Bank and a range of government ministries and departments.

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