What's In Blue

Posted Tue 2 May 2023

Arria-formula Meeting on the “Protection of Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflicts”

This afternoon (2 May), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflict. The meeting is being co-hosted by France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with co-sponsorship by non-Council members Cyprus and Italy. The expected briefers are Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); General Vincenzo Molinese, Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Italy); and Omar Al-Taweel, Site Coordinator for the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative—a UNESCO reconstruction campaign designed to rehabilitate the city’s cultural heritage.

The meeting, which will begin at 3 pm EST in Conference Room 7, will be open to all member states. It will not be broadcast on UNTV, after Russia raised an objection to webcasting the meeting on the official UN channel. In line with established practice, the webcasting of Arria-formula meetings can be blocked if a single Council member objects. This will mark the fourth time in the past two months that a Council member has opposed to the webcasting of an Arria-formula meeting.

According to the concept note prepared by the co-organisers, the meeting is expected to focus on key strategies and policies related to the protection of culture in situations of armed conflict, including through the implementation of Security Council resolution 2347, which was adopted in March 2017. Drafted by France and Italy, that resolution condemns the destruction, looting and trafficking of cultural heritage in armed conflicts, and calls on member states to implement necessary measures to advance the protection of cultural heritage within their territory and, if requested, with the assistance of relevant UN agencies. Also in March 2017, France and the UAE founded the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), an organisation that provides funding for projects that support the security of cultural heritage.

More recently, at UNESCO’s World Conference on Cultural Politics and Sustainable Development in September 2022, 150 countries adopted the Mondiacult Declaration, reaffirming that culture is a “global public good” and commending the “new impetus given to the role of culture for sustainable development, peace and stability”.

The concept note prepared by the co-organisers ahead of today’s meeting poses several questions to help guide the discussion. Among others, these include:

  • What are good practices and lessons learnt for implementation of UN instruments, including resolution 2347?
  • What role can cultural heritage play in promoting resilience, dialogue, reconciliation, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence between and within communities, including in post-conflict situations?
  • What measures can be taken to prevent and combat illicit trafficking of cultural objects originating from situations of armed conflict?
  • What can be done to address the harmful effects of climate change and extreme weather patterns that could threaten cultural heritage?

Today’s meeting builds on the Council’s engagement on the protection of cultural heritage over the years. As noted in resolution 2347, the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee is tasked with identifying and raising awareness of “the challenges related to the illicit trade of cultural property as it relates to the financing of terrorism”. In addition, until June 2018, one element of the mandate of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was “support for cultural preservation”, which entailed assisting the Malian authorities with the protection of cultural and historic sites in cooperation with UNESCO. More recently, Security Council members held an Arria-formula meeting titled “the destruction of cultural heritage as a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine” on 15 July 2022, at the initiative of Albania and Poland, and in cooperation with Ukraine. (For more information, see our 14 July What’s in Blue story.)

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