UAE dignitaries unite to protect cultural heritage

UAE leaders recently joined foreign heads of states, prime ministers and other dignitaries to find ways to protect and preserve cultural traditions put at risk by armed combat.

The Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference, held in Abu Dhabi, was the initiative of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, and French President François Hollande. It was supported by UNESCO.
"Heritage, in all its diversity, is a source of collective wealth and encourages dialogue,” Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, said. “It is a vehicle for closer relations, tolerance and freedom. In an armed conflict situation, heritage is particularly at risk, owing to its inherent vulnerability and tremendous symbolic value. It is encouraging to see so many of us converge and collaborate to develop tangible goals to safeguard this heritage."
Representatives of more than 40 countries affected by heritage loss joined experts in heritage preservation at the conference, which concluded with the creation of a global fund to help protect culture and traditions affected by war. The fund’s goal is to raise $100 million, which will go toward prevention initiatives, stopping illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts, and helping to restore damaged areas.
Dignitaries who participated in the two-day event included Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
"It is for us, citizens of the world, a great pleasure to be united in the magical land of the United Arab Emirates,” Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute, said. “This conference we are invited to is a historical event, but the task and the challenges at hand are great. It is time to mobilize the international and public actors to preserve the heritage threatened by war and terrorism.” Lang said UNESCO has already done great work and deserves continues support from the UAE. “The UAE is a role model in this field and has paved the way towards devising and implementing actionable solutions, and we thank them for spearheading this initiative," he said.
UNESCO aims to protect cultural heritage and find innovative ways to promote peace, preventing the loss of treasured customs.
"Over the past years, together we have built a new landscape, a new approach for the protection of heritage, bringing together partners far outside the ‘culture box’ – against the deliberate destruction of heritage as a war crime and a key security issue,” Bokova said. “The creation of this fund breaks new ground, and I see this as the starting point of something larger: a renewed commitment for culture, education, human dignity, where the protection of heritage is part and parcel of a global strategy against hatred and extremism, to build lasting foundations for peace."
A conference in 2017 is planned to address the effectiveness of the implementation of the initiatives.


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