ICCROM – ATHAR at WAC-7: Follow-up on the Sharjah Initiative on the Preservation of Heritage in Times of Crisis
27 January 2013

ATHAR Centre co-organized with the University of Vienna a session titled “Archaeology as a Target: Preservation and Heritage Identities in Times of Conflict” in the frame of the 7th World Archaeological Congress (WAC-7) held in 14-18 January 2013 in Jordan. The session included a number of issues that shed light on methodologies developed to date by specialist organisations, regarding the protection of archaeological heritage in times of crises.

The final session of this Congress was a follow up on the Sharjah Initiative of last June, and aimed to formulate an action plan focusing on key questions identified for this 7th Congress. At the session, presentations were given by Dr. Zaki Aslan, Aparna Tandon and Abdullah Halawa on ICCROM’s previous actions in this field; and by Dr. Amra Hadzimuhamedvic (Bosnia Herzegovina), Dr. Bijan Rohani (ICOMOS-ICORP), Dr. Anna Del Maso (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Dr. Peter Stone  (Blue Shield/ University of Newcastle) and Dr. Friedrich T. Schipper (University of Vienna). These presentations were followed by a group work session in which 26 professionals and institutions working in this field participated to reflect on realistic solutions with a particular focus on the role of cultural heritage in reconciliation and conflict resolution.

Thus, this final session held under the title: “Where Do We Go from Here?” addressed challenges in protecting cultural heritage in times of crises, with special reference to the Arab region, building on the practical experiences and previous lessons. It devised a number of recommendations which aimed at highlighting the role of professionals working in the fields of Archaeology and Heritage. These recommendations addressed to the professional community of WAC included:

  • The need to enhance national legislative measures for the protection of cultural heritage in times of crises; and to ratify and observe the Hague Convention and its protocols, as well as other relevant international conventions, recommendations and regional declarations during transitional times.
  • The need to develop institutional and communal capacity building programmes for preparedness, response and recovery that are inclusive, engaging a wide range of actors. These programmes should take into consideration the need to provide a working framework which can be adapted to particular scenarios and local situations.
  • The need to work with authorities and NGOs to provide standardized baseline information to support informed decision making concerning required technical assistance; combat illicit trafficking of artifacts; and understand patterns of conflict. This information should refer to sources inside or outside the country concerned. It is advisable that professionals work in non-crisis      times in cooperation with local authorities and professionals to promote the importance of capacity building in this field and to standardize the format of data collection for the development of long term strategies.

WAC 7 was held under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Dead Sea, Jordan. WAC Congresses take place once every four years, and are a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge from around the world. Each Congress is an exceptional event that is embedded in the culture of the host country. WAC-7 was the first WAC congress to take place in an Arab country, during which over 1200 participants had a unique opportunity to reflect on the rich cultural heritage of the Arab region.