Rome – Italy, 1 December 2017 – The 30th General Assembly of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) was concluded today in Rome, Italy, following three days of panel discussions, presentations and meetings amongst participating delegations of 135 countries of ICCROM’s Member States.
The 30th General Assembly of ICCROM, held from 29 November – 1 December, focused on sustainable approaches to support the reconstruction of destroyed and damaged historic cities. It provided an international platform to discuss and endorse the Rome-based agency’s strategic directions and work plan, to elect its governing Council, to approve the new director general, and to shape the future role of the organisation.
Additionally, the 30th General Assembly hosted several activities and events contributing to the dialogue on rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction of historic cities. These include an exhibit of reconstructed or recovered heritage objects entitled “Palmyra: Rising from Destruction”, sponsored by the Incontro di Civiltà Association and the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage; a photographic exhibition at the Egyptian Academy in Rome entitled “The Day After: Shadows of Heritage”, which displayed the devastated cultural heritage of four countries in the Middle East; and finally a Thematic Discussion on post-conflict reconstruction, recovery and community involvement, which has concluded today.
Thematic Discussion on post-conflict reconstruction concluded – Recommendations and Final Statements
The Thematic Discussion on “Post-Conflict Reconstruction – Recovery and Community Involvement” was concluded today. The two-day event intended to address the topics of reconstruction and recovery of inhabited historic cities, whether small or large. Case studies from countries in different world regions were presented during the last day of the event.
Dr Amra Hadžimuhamedović, an expert from Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered a presentation entitled “Heritage and the ‘Liberal Peace’ Concept in Contemporary Wars: Learning from Bosnia”, in which she focused on the destruction of heritage during and after the 1990s war in Bosnia, as well as the role of heritage in the country’s transition to peace. The speaker highlighted a framework of heritage protection principles that take into consideration the balance needed between aspects including, but not limited to, emergent humanitarian needs and human rights, culture and public expressions of identity, multilateral and specific national approaches, universal interest and local context, available funds and needs, and others.
Architect Jad Tabet, President of the Lebanese Chapter of Engineers and Architects and a Member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, focused on the critical role of the private sector in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction processes. He highlighted the experience of Beirut, Lebanon, after the end of civil war in 1991. “A quarter century after the launch of the reconstruction process of Beirut’s historic centre, one which was entrusted to a private real estate company,” said Tabet, “Beirut’s experience offers a striking example of an investment-led operation in the age of liberal market economy, which ended in economic success but as a social and environmental failure.”
Mr Giovanni Boccardi, Chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit within the Culture Sector of UNESCO, provided an overview of the emblematic experience developed by UNESCO and its partners in Mali to better address the contemporary challenges of protecting cultural heritage in the face of conflicts. The success of the project in northern Mali, and especially in Timbuktu, owes much to the mobilization of local communities, which have led all the operations of emergency backup and reconstruction. “The local communities have preserved over generations a unique ancestral know-how, which allowed the reconstruction of 14 mausoleums of saints, the rehabilitation of mosques and libraries of ancient manuscripts”, said Boccardi.
For his part, Prof Toshiyuki Kono, Vice President of ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments and Sites) and professor at Kyushu University of Fukuoka, Japan, highlighted several cases related to reconstruction processes of heritage and cultural sites in Japan, including Kumamoto and Hiroshima Castles, following the considerable devastation caused by natural disasters, earthquakes and wars. His presentation aimed to contribute to the discussion of reconstruction as a whole.
Dr Gamini Wijesuriya, Project Manager at the Sites Unit of ICCROM, presented a case study based on his involvement and management of the recovery, restoration and reconstruction project for the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Sri Lanka, the first World Heritage Site bombed by terrorists in 1998. The case study illustrated how recovery is determined by the needs and aspirations of the communities. The process had to be started immediately, said Wijesuriya, as the destruction had severely impacted the communities. “The community’s involvement is essential. It ranged from exerting pressure on all those concerned with the recovery to extending necessary financial support.”
Ms Renata Schneider Glantz, senior conservator at the Coordinación Nacional de Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in Mexico, presented a case study of the restoration of the Church of Santa María de la Asunción in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, after it burned in 2007. In this project, an interdisciplinary team worked side by side with community members and traditional authorities in the decision-making processes. “This not only allowed the recovery of the site in its aesthetic and material dimensions, but also preserved and enhanced its symbolic dimensions and its ritual and daily use”, said Schneider Glantz.
The Thematic Discussions concluded today with the announcement of a set of recommendations and final statements emphasizing the role of ICCROM in providing an international platform, guidance, and methodologies for the professional community, networks, decision-makers, and institutions responsible for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage at risk. These recommendations come at a time when ‘cultural cleansing’, vandalism, targeting of historic and religious sites, in addition to illicit trafficking in cultural properties and large-scale illegal excavations, represent a serious threat for the richness of our human cultural diversity internationally.
Due to this alarming situation, participants of ICCROM’s 30th General Assembly call Member States to:
- Comply with the latest international legal instruments adopted by the UN Security Council, which condemns the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria; and Resolutions devoted to the protection of cultural heritage at risk.
- Devise participatory policies that adopt community-centred approaches to recovery and reconstruction projects, thus creating a sense of ownership, community empowerment and social cohesion.
- Develop a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approach in post-conflict reconstruction processes, noting that little real implementation has been experienced to date on the ground.
- Recognize that documentation is critical to best practices in heritage management. All relevant data sources which document heritage resources must be preserved.
- Acknowledge that the specific dimension of post-conflict reconstruction requires specific intervention phases, first with emergency action, then with long-term planning according to priorities to be set in advance.
- Emphasize that any commitment to a peace process must include the issue of the preservation and post-conflict reconstruction of cultural heritage.
- Expand partnerships beyond the traditional areas of development cooperation and progressively include the field of cultural heritage protection.
- Enhance the institutional and legal frameworks regarding the protection and management of cultural heritage in times of peace, crises and disasters in order to facilitate coordination between donors, international and non-governmental organisations, national and local authorities.
The above closing statement marked the conclusion of the activities and meetings of the 30th General Assembly of ICCROM.
For more information please contact:
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Paul Arenson Manager, Knowledge and Communication Services, ICCROM Tel: +39 340 8621843 (English, French, Italian)
Sophy Janowski Chief Management Officer, ICCROM Tel: +39 346 1772569 (English, French)
The 30th General Assembly marks sixty years of ICCROM’s activity. ICCROM was founded at the Ninth Session of the UNESCO General Conference in New Delhi, 1956, to study experiences of heritage restoration and reconstruction in different countries after the destructions of the Second World War. An agreement signed in 1957 between the Government of the Italian Republic and UNESCO established the Centre in Rome. In 2014, ICCROM opened its first Regional Office, the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
ICCROM is the only institution of its kind with a worldwide mandate to promote the conservation of all types of cultural heritage. ICCROM is an intergovernmental organization at the service of our Member States. It contributes to this endeavor by providing knowledge, tools and training to those who are working hard to conserve culture. ICCROM works at the international and governmental level, and with institutions and professionals on the ground. Through selected outreach activities, ICCROM aims to engage and inform new generations of upcoming professionals and the general public with an interest in heritage. ICCROM also maintains an active, engaged network of professionals from around the world who are passionate about heritage and its protection.