Signature between UNESCO and the Afghan administration of a memorandum of understanding for the rehabilitation of the National Museum of KabulParis - A memorandum of understanding for the rehabilitation of the National Museum of Kabul was signed this morning between the Director-General of UNESCO,
Koïchiro Matsuura, and the Minister of Information and Culture in the Afghan Interim Administration, Said Makhdoom Raheen, who directly afterwards addressed the Executive Board of UNESCO as it met for an Information Session. The Chairman of the Afghan Interim Administration, Hamid Karzaï, was also to make a speech to the Executive Board today.
The memorandum of understanding for the rehabilitation of the Kabul Museum, is, effectively, the first concrete expression of the responsibility entrusted to UNESCO by Afghanistan for the overall coordination of international efforts to safeguard Afghan cultural heritage. It principally covers the assessment of the state of the building and the collections, the implementation of emergency retrieval efforts to safeguard the collections, the preparation of a detailed project to restore the building and possibly transfer part of the collections to other existing or new locations, the training of Museum staff and re-building of its scientific and managerial capacities, as well as the provision of equipment and necessary national and international expertise.
The Kabul Museum, founded in 1930, was badly damaged and pillaged during years of fighting in the Afghan capital. Around 70% of the Museum's 100,000 artefacts have disappeared. The Museum received its deathblow in March 2001 when Taliban from the Ministry for the Repression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue used hammers and axes to destroy priceless statues and other works of art.
The memorandum states that the Afghan Interim Administration and UNESCO will mobilize the necessary resources within the international community to meet these objectives. The two partners will meet regularly to determine the activities to be undertaken within this framework, toshare information and to coordinate fund-raising and technical assistance.
Addressing the Afghan minister and the members of the Executive Board, the Director-General of UNESCO stressed that the Organization had never forsaken Afghanistan through its recent decades of war and internal strife. He mentioned the consolidation of the minaret in the town of Jam and safeguarding of the town of Herat, which was the subject of an international campaign in the 1970s, as well as the regrettably fruitless efforts last year to try to save the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. Koïchiro Matsuura noted the deployment of the first experts in post-Taliban Afghanistan as well as longer-term measures: "Following the Tokyo Conference, UNESCO has prepared a number of proposals tothe tune of several million dollars in favour of culture and communication in the framework of the UN Consolidated Joint Appeal." …/…
The Director-General also said: "In the longer term, and as soon as we have been able to muster the necessary resources, our plans are not only to restore and preserve the country's monuments and sites, but also to revitalize the arts and crafts and traditional techniques, with a particular eye on the involvement and participation of women (...) This Organisation's strategy in such instances is to help re-establish the linkages between the populations concerned and their long-term cultural history. In other cases, it involves developing a sense of common ownership of the monuments which are representative of different parts of society."
The Afghan Minister of Information and Culture in turn commented on the destruction of libraries and musical instruments by the Taliban and their suppression of art and culture throughout the country: "The Taliban wanted to destroy our culture, our past and our national pride." Calculating that 80% of the country's arts and culture infrastructure had been destroyed and that many historic sites were in danger, Said Makhdoom Raheen declared that his government was committed to revivingthe arts and culture which "for thousands of years were an integral part of our life."