UAE and France to Unite in Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas at Abu Dhabi Conference

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates; 16 November 2016: The United Arab Emirates and France have revealed plans for a new international partnership aimed at protecting cultural heritage during armed conflicts. This initiative will be launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and François Hollande, President of France at the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference. The conference, under the patronage of UNESCO, will take place on December 2 and 3 at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi.

The global conference has been organised by the governments of the UAE and France in response to the growing threats to some of the world’s most important cultural resources arising from sustained periods of armed conflicts, acts of terrorism and illicit trafficking of cultural property. The systematic destruction or looting of historic sites and monuments representing civilisations that go back millennia – like in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Mali, and throughout the world – are among those cases that have motivated the UAE and France to partner and to support UNESCO’s global mandate to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts.

Speaking about the need for the conference at this time, His Excellency Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority said: “The legacy of a nation is manifest in its art, architecture and culture; the continuing devastation of these treasures in combat zones deprives us, and future generations, of a resource that is of enormous historical value. The deliberate destruction of cultural artefacts as an act of war reflects not only their symbolic importance to a nation’s collective consciousness but also underscores the urgent need to protect them.”

His Excellency continued: “Our ancestors passed down cultural heritage that has defined our civilization and united mankind through shared history. Safeguarding this heritage often becomes secondary to humanitarian, social and economic issues in times of unforeseen conflict; yet, it is our duty to come together and strive for the protection and perpetuation of this heritage.”

Held under the patronage of UNESCO, the conference will be led by His Excellency Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, as well as Jack Lang, President of Institut du Monde Arabe. It brings together more than 40 countries as well as key players, private or public institutions, involved in world heritage conservation. The mandate for the conference will be to define and achieve practical and sustainable goals in effectively safeguarding endangered movable and immovable cultural resources. This will involve the development of concrete and innovative solutions as well as the creation of a global framework for immediate and long-term goals.

The conference’s agenda will focus on capacity building for professionals in conflict areas and improving legal and funding mechanisms to facilitate emergency protection of heritage sites as well as post-conflict rehabilitation. It will also launch the creation of a global network of safe havens as refuges for endangered works, and a public and private sector international financial fund to sustain long term programmes to preserve cultural heritage.

The conference will conclude with the adoption of the Abu Dhabi Declaration.

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