UNESCO-EU: Launch of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage project
Operation response to halt the on-going loss of cultural heritage and prepare post-conflict priority actions. Under the funding of the European Union, and in collaboration with UNESCO and other strategic partners, the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage Project will be officially launched on 1 March 2014 for a period of three years.
The overall objective of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage project is to contribute to restoring social cohesion, stability and sustainable development through the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage. In view of the growing destruction and loss of cultural heritage that reach the international community day after day, the project is a first step to monitor the on-going destruction and loss of cultural heritage, mitigate its destruction and loss, and prepare the post-conflict priority actions, as well as the medium and long term actions, as a means to restore normalcy and social cohesion.
Recent conflicts have evidenced the growing and irreversible threats to cultural heritage in times of unrest. Certain measures can substantially contribute to reducing the impact of these threats through strong awareness-raising campaigns, improving understanding on the current situation, strengthening technical capacities of cultural heritage professionals, customs officers, and knowledge bearers, as well as coordinating international and national efforts. Consequently, the project has adopted a three-pronged approach:
- Monitor and assess the cultural heritage situation in Syria through updated and continued knowledge and documentation through the establishment of an International Observatory of Syrian Cultural Heritage. This online platform will provide information on damages and looting of sites and structures, as well as information on on-going projects and initiatives to protect and safeguard cultural heritage. In parallel, the project will establish a database of experts and locate available documentation on cultural heritage in Syria in order to create optimal conditions for recovery activities.
- Mitigate the destruction and loss of Syrian cultural heritage through national and international awareness-raising efforts. A multimedia awareness-raising campaign, using international, regional and national media and social networks, and will include the dissemination of video clips, a documentary and a publication on Syrian cultural heritage. Besides, educational activities on cultural heritage for children and educators will be undertaken, and an episode of Patrimonito's World Heritage Adventures in Syria will be produced. Furthermore, an international workshop, bringing together cultural heritage specialists, UNESCO partners and national and international entities active in the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage in Syria including providing information on the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage project and coordinate future recommendations and actions.
- Protect and safeguard Syrian cultural heritage through enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building for national stakeholders and beneficiaries. Activities include:
- providing technical support for the establishment of a police database of looted artefacts;
- training police forces and customs officers in Syria and adjacent countries to fight illicit trafficking of cultural property (and on the specific tools available to facilitate and improve the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention);
- training national stakeholders to protect movable heritage and museums during and after the conflict;
- providing technical assistance and training for the protection of built cultural heritage and planning conservation and restoration works in view of the recovery phase;
- training of national stakeholders concerning the core concepts and mechanisms of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; and
- specialized training of national stakeholders, civil society organizations and communities concerning the creation of inventories for intangible cultural heritage.
The project is managed by the Project Management Unit based in the UNESCO Field Office in Beirut, Lebanon to ensure geographical proximity with Syria and readiness to undertake field missions, as well as swift communication with national partners and access to Syrian stakeholders.