Iraqi intellectuals meeting at UNESCO outline a new cultural policy for IraqRespect for cultural diversity, promotion of creativity and participation of all in cultural life, and the safeguarding cultural heritage form the three pillars of an Appeal adopted yesterday by participants at the First Cultural Forum for Iraq, organized by UNESCO on May 26 and 27 at Headquarters.
The Forum, held in the presence of the Iraqi Minister for Culture, Moufid Al Jazairi, was attended by intellectuals and artists from Iraq and the Iraqi diaspora, and was convened to lay the ground for a new cultural policy in the country.
Their appeal identifies a series of priority actions. On respect for cultural diversity, it recommends that “religious, linguistic and cultural rights” of all of the constituent groups of Iraqi society, along with freedom of expression and academic freedom, be guaranteed by the Constitution. It also proposes diverse measures to promote creativity and the participation of all in cultural life.
On the issue of safeguarding cultural heritage, it recommends the establishment of an inventory of architectural and urban heritage, opening the way for a debate on the future of monuments built by the former regime, and the implementation of the objectives proposed earlier this week at the first session of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage (ICC).
The Appeal, it is hoped, will form the basis of discussions at a more comprehensive meeting of Iraqi intellectuals, which could take place in Baghdad later this year, security conditions permitting.
Opening the Forum, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura stressed that “when cultural policy is based on the real aspirations of a people, and when it embodies the values of diversity and pluralism, it can be a powerful force for the reconstruction of a state and a society. […] It is my conviction that if Iraq is to maximize its chances of reconciling past, present and future, and take a decisive step towards reconstruction, it must treat culture as a matter or urgency, on equal footing with humanitarian aid, sanitation and education.”
The Forum immediately followed the first meeting of the International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Cultural Heritage (ICC), organized by UNESCO at Headquarters on May 24 and 25. The ICC - which brought together about 30 experts from Iraq and the diaspora, as well as other international cultureal heritage specialists - adopted seven objectives to improve and reinforce international cooperation for the conservation and rehabilitation of tangible and intangible Iraqi cultural heritage (see Press Release No. 2004-45).
Photo © UNESCO: Bonsirven-Fontana: Sumerian Art; Marble Head The Warka Lady 3000 BC.