18.02.2010 -

UNESCO lays foundations for International Coordination Committee (ICC) for Haitian culture

UNESCO laid the foundations for an International Coordination Committee (ICC) for Haitian culture at a meeting on 16 February in Paris, opened by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. The meeting was chaired by Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue, Haiti's Minister of Culture and Communication, and Françoise Rivière, the Organization's Assistant Director-General for Culture.

Addressing the Minister, Ms Bokova said, "Our goal is to define the most effective means that will allow UNESCO to help prepare and implement a comprehensive programme for the benefit of Haitian culture, by drawing on the vast capacities of your country's cultural community, which has already mobilized its efforts, and by calling on internationally renowned experts."


The Committee, which will be similar to those established by UNESCO for Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be officially created once it receives final approval from UNESCO's Executive Board at its next session (30 March - 15 April).


Having recalled that the earthquake on 12 January killed 230,000 people and displaced another half-million, the Haitian Minister stressed that her country had also "just lost 100 years of architecture". The purpose of the meeting, she continued, was to "set up this programme to inventory, safeguard and rehabilitate all the assets and remains linked to Haitian heritage."


The 150 participants included representatives from UNESCO Member States and organizations including Interpol, Blue Shield, the World Customs Organization, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), and museums including the Quai Branly (France) and the Smithsonian Institution (United States).


The first part of the meeting focused on assessing the damage the earthquake inflicted on tangible as well as intangible heritage and on cultural industries. The most urgent measures to be taken - at the same time as the creation of the CIC - were examined.


UNESCO will provide institutional support to the Haitian Ministry of Culture in order to establish with utmost urgency the inventory of sites and collections to be safeguarded. A fund to support artists and help them to continue their work is also being considered.


The Haitian delegation stressed that all of the emblematic buildings in Port-au-Prince had been damaged, particularly the cathedral, National Palace, Palace of Justice, Dessalines barracks, Alexandre Pétion school, Trinity, Saint Anne and Saint Joseph churches, justice and culture ministries and Saint-Louis de Gonzague school.


Jacmel was among other cities struck by the earthquake. On Haiti's Tentative List of properties to be proposed for inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List, Jacmel has sustained extensive damage, particularly downtown.


In Leogane, close to the epicentre, damage is also considerable although the wooden colonial houses are relatively intact. The Institute for the Preservation of National Heritage (ISPAN) has not yet completed a detailed inventory of the town's devastation.


In addition, numerous museums and art galleries, both public and private, libraries and national archives have been severely damaged and risk looting. UNESCO Director-General On 27 January, Irina Bokova wrote to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling for safeguarding measures "to ensure, as far as possible, the immediate security of the sites containing these artefacts."


Ms Bokova will go to Haiti on 9 March to meet with Port-au-Prince authorities to examine the implementation of UNESCO's assistance, not only in culture but also in education and science.

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