It is with immense pleasure that we announce the completion of the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre (ICCROM-ATHAR) and its official inauguration which took place on 14 December 2014, in Sharjah UAE.

The newly established Centre expresses its gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE, and Ruler of Sharjah, whose patronage has been enjoyed since 2008, and to the United Arab Emirates for the gracious support made in favour of the Centre’s existence, and the investment made to develop knowledge in the different fields of cultural heritage in the Arab region.

Last year not only marked this cornerstone achievement, but also the conclusion of the first decade of ICCROM-ATHAR (previously ATHAR Programme). Since its inception in 2004, the Programme has dedicated its activities to the protection of cultural heritage in the Arab region. As stipulated at the outset, ICCROM-ATHAR today, continues to enhance the capacity of official heritage institutions to manage heritage sites, historic monuments and museum collections on sustainable basis. This regional centre, the first of its kind for ICCROM (besides the autonomous EPA: Ecole du Patrimoine Africain in Benin), is committed to the safeguarding of cultural heritage in the Arab world for the benefit of local societies, individual countries and the region as a whole.

Those who have been following our activities since 2004 will appreciate our continued efforts and persistence to update the knowledge of mid-career professionals and help develop their skills through courses, activities and symposia, illustrating the positive impact of the capacity building efforts of the Centre. Our ICCROM-ATHAR Alumni continue to achieve tangible results in the context of their institutional responsibilities, where they are now leading significant projects in their home countries, utilising the acquired knowledge during our activities and putting it into good practice, to safeguard the increasingly threatened heritage of this region for humanity and future generations.

These initiatives consolidated the engagement of the Arab institutions who have increasingly appreciated the work of the Centre. In fact, “investing in people” who are in charge of protection of cultural heritage in the Arab region is the main goal of the Centre. It should be stressed that the positive impact of Centre’s activities is illustrated not only by the engagement of its graduates in the various ICCROM-ATHAR field projects, but also in their involvement in training and regional activities across the region. For example, several ICCROM-ATHAR former participants contributed substantially to the second cycle of the World Heritage periodic reporting in the Arab States, also conducted in partnership with ICCROM-ATHAR’s training course experts, as well as in university teaching and participation on international forums.

The achievements of ICCROM-ATHAR have been greatly acknowledged after a decade of investment. For example, this support was crowned by resolutions made at ALECSO’s Conferences of Ministers of Culture of the Arab States, which were held in Doha in October, 2010, Manama in December 2012, and Riyadh in January, 2015. The conferences devised resolutions stating that it is crucial to support ICCROM-ATHAR through various contributions by the Arab states in order to achieve its ultimate goal.

Thus, ICCROM-ATHAR pursues its aim to be a platform for the dissemination of best practices in heritage conservation and management, for education of professionals, and for raising awareness of the public. In cooperation with and with the support of its Arab member states, the Centre works towards the advancement of cultural heritage policies and their coordination in the Arab region. The Centre aspires to become a cross-road of knowledge promoting continuous protection of cultural heritage and the advancement of its management and conservation in the Arab Region, as well as broadening access, appreciation, and understanding of the region’s past.

Proud to have witnessed accomplishments (listed in this special edition) on numerous levels in the last decade, we dedicate this Special Edition of our biennial Newsletter to the celebration of the last 10 years of achievements as a Programme, and now as a Centre, to all those who have made it possible for ICCROM-ATHAR to become the Centre that it is today.  With more activities being planned in the coming year, along with numerous publications series being planned in order to reach wider audiences to help advance knowledge in the field, ICCROM-ATHAR perseveres to achieve meanings and messages embedded in its slogan that stipulates: “knowledge … the future of our heritage”.

Zaki Aslan