Rebuilding Haiti: UNESCO banking on culture
Culture as an essential element of Haitian identity was the theme of a conference on rebuilding Haiti that was held on 19 April at UNESCO Headquarters. Its goal: to mobilize the international community and the private sector to restore cultural heritage damaged by the earthquake and get cultural institutions working again.
Representatives of member states, multilateral organizations, development banks, the private sector and civil society were convened to the meeting, which was presided by the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the Spanish Secretary of State for Cooperation, Soraya Rodríguez Ramos.
Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, and Stefan Malebranche, Director-General of the Haitian Ministry of Culture and Communication, also took part in “Haiti: Making Culture a Motor for Reconstruction”.
Following the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, UNESCO mobilized US$ 9 million for the country’s reconstruction, with another US$ 23 million currently in negotiation. The funds made it possible to launch projects notably in education and science. “Now the time has come for greater mobilization for culture,” said Ms Bokova. “Culture is an essential element of Haitian identity; it is everywhere, in the streets, in people’s homes, in their way of life and in their way of thinking. Culture is a mobilizing force that brings people together.”
In July 2010 UNESCO established the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Haitian Cultural Heritage (ICC), which adopted a roadmap of actions to be carried out. The Committee will hold its next meeting in December 2011 in Haiti.
UNESCO also set out to ensure the protection of sites against looting and the safeguarding of collections from public and private museums damaged by the earthquake.
The projects in need of funding today concern five main areas: World Heritage (cultural and natural), intangible heritage, movable heritage (museums, archives, libraries), cultural industries and cultural policies. At the close of the meeting, Spain pledged US$ 500,000 to finance these projects.
“This is an emergency. We must increase our drive to sustain the aspirations of every Haitian man and woman. Every project that has been costed can be accomplished. Our solidarity must not falter,” concluded Michaëlle Jean.