New UNESCO project launched in Baghdad to protect Iraqi cultural heritage
"Today, we show our solidarity in the face of unprecedented cultural cleansing, cultural eradication and cultural looting ... And we pledge our commitment to do everything we can to halt this cultural cleansing”, said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, at the launch of the new project Preventive Conservation of Iraq’s Museum Collections and Cultural Heritage sites at Imminent Risk.
The launch event took place on 28 March at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, in the presence of the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq, His Excellency Mr Adel Fahad Shershab, and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Iraq, His Excellency Mr Kazuya Nashida.
The objective of the project, generously funded by the Government of Japan, is to help protect Iraqi archaeological treasures at risk as the result of the current crisis. The project focuses on developing and implementing emergency contingency plans for sites and museums, repositories of cultural objects, as well as museums.
This will be taken forward through capacity-building of Iraqi professionals to enhance protection measures, including inventories and the use of remote sensing and satellite imagining.
“The history of Iraq is one of tolerance, dialogue and coexistence between diverse cultural communities,” declared the Director-General. “This history is embodied here, in the National Museum. This history belongs to all of us, and it is our responsibility to defend it.”
"History classes in Japan starts with Mesopotamia", said Ambassador Nashida. "We have a common responsibility to protect and safeguard the heritage of Iraq, which is also the heritage of humanity. Our support to this project is a demonstration of our resolve and commitment".
Minister Shershab expressed his gratitude to Japan and UNESCO for taking action and provide timely support during such difficult and trying times.
Irina Bokova referred to the longstanding support of the Government of Japan to UNESCO since 2004, including to the National Museum, by restoring laboratories, training staff, developing inventories and leading emergency rehabilitation.
“I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Japan once again for its generous support and leadership,” said Irina Bokova.
“In the 1960s, we helped save the temples of Egypt. In 2004, we reopened the Mostar Bridge. Last year, we started to restore the mausoleums of Mali – today, our pledge is we will never relent in safeguarding the great cultural heritage and diversity of Iraq.”