This site uses technical, analytics and third-party cookies.
By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies.

Preferences cookies

Security Council – Meeting on the destruction of the cultural heritage in armed conflicts

Statement delivered by Deputy Foreign Minster for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Vincenzo Amendola at the Security Council Briefing on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: destruction of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict” —

Mr. President,

Our generation is faced with unprecedented attacks against and destruction of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict. Not only is this an attack against the past, but also against our collective future. It affects peoples’ identity and hampers post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding. It undermines values such as tolerance, respect and inclusivity. It deprives minority groups of their roots. It fuels conflicts.

The destruction of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict can amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity. Together with the unprecedented scale of organized looting and illicit trafficking in cultural objects, these acts provide a source of income for terrorist groups, support their recruitment efforts, and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out attacks.

For these reasons and for our history (Italy hosts the highest number of UNESCO sites in its territory), the protection of cultural heritage is a longstanding pillar of Italian foreign policy and Italy is at the forefront of international efforts to safeguard and protect cultural heritage, also thanks to the specialized unit of the Carabinieri:

• We are a staunch supporter of UNESCO. We promoted the adoption of a resolution on culture in conflict areas and support the implementation of the Unite4Heritage Campaign, including through our national Task Force – the so-called “Blue Helmets of Culture” – as we have just heard from Gen. Parrulli.
• As G7 Chair we will hold the first ever meeting of the G7 Ministers of Culture at the end of March.
• As partners of the Global Coalition against ISIL we co-Chair with the USA and Saudi Arabia the “Counter ISIL Finance Group,” – whose work includes promoting swift implementation of UNSCR 2199 to prevent terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria from benefiting from trade in oil, antiquities and hostages. We also chair its sub-group on illegal trafficking in cultural property.
• Among the major bilateral projects in which we are engaged, allow me to mention our successful cooperation with the Government of Iraq on safeguarding its immense cultural patrimony.

As a Security Council candidate, we made cultural heritage an overarching theme. Together with Jordan, UNESCO, UNODC and INTERPOL we organized a series of seminars aimed at raising awareness and considering improved responses.

As a Security Council member, we are convinced that this body should pay more attention to the protection of cultural heritage, in the belief that around this issue the Council and the International Community can and should unite.

For these reasons, France and Italy have promoted this briefing and proposed a Security Council resolution specifically dedicated to this issue.

I would like to thank all Security Council members for their constructive engagement that led to the adoption of today’s document and the UK Presidency for scheduling the meeting in its program of work. I also wish to acknowledge all the Member States that have cosponsored the text.

The destruction of cultural heritage, notably by terrorist groups and organized criminal networks, is a sorrow reality and this resolution addresses it with clear language and concrete operational measures. But this issue has a broader relevance in the maintenance of international peace and security, one that goes beyond attacks by terrorist groups.

Today, the Council is sending a clear sign of commitment and an important response to the destruction of cultural patrimony in the event of crisis and conflicts.

The resolution is a balanced instrument that addresses both preventive initiatives and measures devoted to counter illegal excavations as well as the looting of and trafficking in cultural heritage at the domestic and international levels.

States are encouraged to adopt appropriate measures in line with their national system and with international framework and standards. Harmonized legislations and coordinated operational solutions are indispensable to provide effective responses. The Security Council is committing itself and the dedicated UN bodies to assist Member States and to strengthen all forms of cooperation.

We are confident that these effort will contribute to prevent and counter the conducts that destroy and damage cultural heritage and provide important financial support to criminal and terrorist groups.

Mr. President,

integrating the cultural dimension into the prevention and settlement of conflicts is not only a moral obligation: it is also a political and security imperative. Raising awareness and mobilizing international efforts are necessary but not sufficient. Bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes against cultural heritage is also crucial, including to prevent future attacks, as highlighted by the historic judgment of the International Criminal Court last September in the Al Madhi case relating to the destruction of cultural heritage in Timbuktu.

Thank you.