International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage in Iraq: seven recommendationsThe International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Iraq (ICC), established under the joint auspices of the Iraqi authorities and UNESCO, concluded its first meeting at the Organization’s Headquarters this evening. The two-day meeting was chaired by Iraq’s Minister for Culture, Moufid al Jazairi.
The Committee, whose main task is to provide advice on measures to improve and reinforce international cooperation for the safeguarding of Iraq’s cultural heritage, comprises 25 international experts including three Iraqis. Its members, proposed by UNESCO Member States, are appointed in their personal capacity by the Organization’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura.
At its first meeting the ICC agreed on seven objectives:
1. Assist the Ministry of Culture of Iraq in ensuring the institutional reform, capacity building and training in the field of cultural policy aimed at the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Iraq with a view to empowering the Ministry for the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the cultural heritage in the country and ensure the enhancement of skills and training of national human resources to this end.
2. Assist the Iraqi Ministry of Culture to review, enforce and strengthen its national legislation on cultural heritage, libraries and archives.
3. Assist the Iraqi museums to devise a comprehensive conservation plan as well as a museological programme to enhance national capacities in Iraq in the research, study, documentation and conservation of its cultural heritage.
4. Assist the Minister of Culture of Iraq to devise a cooperation mechanism and network of international partners and stakeholders aiming at the rehabilitation of the National Library and archives, as well as of other libraries and archives in the country, including their condition assessment, their preventive conservation, the provision of publications, data collection and management tools, as well as training and in particular providing an appropirate centralized digital library cataloguing system.
5. Assist the Ministry of Culture of Iraq to devise a national programme for recording, documenting, assessing conditions, and mapping archaeological sites and elements of the built heritage, with a view to establish an official national registry and a plan for their protection and conservation.
6. Assist the Ministry of Culture in devising action plans for the protection and promotion of the intnagible cultural heritage of Iraq, in particular by sustaining and enhancing the oral traditions and performing arts.
7. Coordinate international action and channel international aid – both bilateral and multilateral – with a view to ensure the implementation of the strategy for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage in Iraq and assess its overall monitoring based on the recommendations adopted by the ICC.
At the opening session of the meeting, the Director-General stressed that “Iraq’s entire culture, from its archaeological sites, museums and cultural institutions, libraries and archives, intangible cultural heritage as well as the arts and cultural industries” had been affected by more than ten years of embargo and conflict in the country. “The challenge, therefore, is immense and vital,” Mr Matsuura said.
It is estimated that Iraq has over 10,000 archaeological sites, though only one seventh of them have been studied. Before it was pillaged in April 2003, the Museum of Baghdad had included some 100,000 objects bearing witness to the greatness of the civilizations that succeeded each other in the “land between two rivers”.
In recent years, UNESCO has contributed to the rehabilitation of cultural heritage in several countries and regions emerging from conflict, including Afghanistan, South-East Europe, Cyprus, Cambodia and Timor-Leste.
Photo © UNESCO/Michel Ravassard: Mufid Al-Jazairi, Minister for Culture in Irak.