ICCROM-ATHAR organized an Expert meeting on strengthening cultural heritage protection in the Arab region in Poland

At a time when destruction and looting of cultural heritage has reached an unprecedented scale, the international community at the highest level is joining efforts to address these threats to establish security and peace: this implies starts a better implementation of the existing international legal instruments within domestic legal order of each State. Hence, committed to the safeguarding of cultural heritage in the Arab region for the benefit of local societies, individual countries and the region as a whole, the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah (ICCROM-ATHAR), organised an Experts’ meeting on “Means to Strengthen Cultural Heritage Protection in the Arab Region: Legal and Policy Frameworks” from 5 to 7 July 2017, in Krakow, Poland, as a side-event of the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee.

This meeting was organised as a response to the critical need particularly for the Arab States, whose cultural heritage is suffering from deliberate destruction, as well as massive looting, illicit trafficking and smuggling, the issue of cultural heritage protection has become a security imperative, whereby cooperation between Arab States must be reinforced and national policies must be significantly enhanced. Legal experts, cultural heritage experts and representatives of international organizations participated at this event.

Focusing on legal, institutional, administrative and awareness-raising actions aiming for a long-term paradigm shift in the field of cultural heritage protection, at national and regional levels, the overall objective of the meeting was to develop a shared understanding of critical issues related to cultural heritage protection in the Arab region. The experts participating in the meeting analysed the weaknesses in cultural heritage protection in the Arab region, by examining the status of ratification and implementation of international legal instruments, by looking at terrorist threats and their devastating impacts, and exploring capacity building and outreach activities.

The meeting was an opportunity to investigate relevant means and channels which can concretely influence cultural policies at national and regional levels, as well as provide guidelines for the updating of national legislation to address gaps in legal provisions relevant to cultural heritage protection and management. Furthermore, in this occasion, experts had the opportunity to identify partners and stakeholders involved in cultural heritage protection in order to create a solid network that could promote a paradigm shift in the long-term.

The complexity of the current situation in the Arab Region cannot be solved merely by legal tools. The strengthening of legislative frameworks must be accompanied by an institutional reform of cultural policies in order to enable a real paradigm shift in this area, as well as involving local communities in the protection of their cultural heritage, particularly by encouraging NGOs operating on the ground and through outreach activities. The participants of the meeting, together with Arab Member States who attended a briefing session, agreed on a series of measures that resulted in an action plan with realistic and tangible steps, benchmarks and mechanisms engaging each country to implement adequate cultural heritage protection in cooperation with ICCROM-ATHAR.

List of participants :

  1. Dr. Zaki ASLAN, Director, ICCROM-ATHAR
  2. Prof. Mohamed Sameh Amr BANDAR, Chair of the International Law Department, Cairo University in Egypt
  3. Dr. Mounir BOUCHENAKI, International expert, Freelancer
  4. Mr. Corrado CATESI, Coordinator of Works of Art Unit, INTERPOL
  5. Mr. Roland DEFENDINI, Legal Consultant, ICCROM
  6. Mr. Ali Ahmed Ali FARHAN, Director General of Egypt’s Seized Artifacts Dept., Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt
  7. Dr. Ridha FRAOUA, Legal Expert, Freelancer
  8. Mr. Christophe GRAZ, Architect, Planner and Exp. Rehabilitation & Heritage, HYDEA
  9. Mr. Abdullah HALAWA, Project Specialist – Built Heritage and Education, ICCROM-ATHAR
  10. Prof. Toshiyuki KONO, Vice-President, ICOMOS
  11. Dr. Jean-Louis LUXEN, Legal Expert, Freelancer
  12. Dr. Vincent NEGRI, Legal Expert, CNRS
  13. Dr. Anna PAOLINI, Director, UNESCO Doha Regional Office
  14. Ms. Marina SCHNEIDER, Legal Expert, UNIDROIT