Italy would like to thank France and United Arab Emirates for organizing this Arria formula meeting that we cosponsored, together with Cyprus, as Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends on the Protection of Cultural Heritage. This event marks an important occasion, six years since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2347, to bring the focus back on the importance of protecting culture to build bridges and promote peace.
I would also like to thank the briefers for their remarkable insights.
The protection of cultural heritage is a pillar of Italy’s foreign policy and Italy is a long-standing partner of UNESCO, which plays a leading role in safeguarding cultural heritage all around the globe since WWII. This arduous, multi-faceted challenge cannot be met with traditional means: since the first acts of terrorism against cultural heritage, UNESCO launched an awareness-raising campaign named Unite4Heritage and urged the international community to seek shared solutions and tools.
Italy has been on the frontline of this global campaign and in 2016, together with UNESCO, we established the world’s first emergency task force for culture: the Blue Helmets for Culture, that have been employed on many occasions ever since, both nationally and internationally, to help other countries develop similar capabilities.
I’m particularly glad that General Molinese could brief this esteemed audience, showcasing the activity carried out both in Italy and abroad by the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, on the forefront of the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage since its establishment.
Cultural heritage is a catalyzer of peace and dialogue among different cultures, civilizations, religions and generations. It cements identity, builds social cohesion, fosters resilience in times of crisis and promotes values such as tolerance, respect and inclusivity. Any deliberate attack against cultural heritage is therefore an attack against the future of humanity, as it hampers post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding, deprives minority groups of their roots and fuels conflicts and hatred. Ensuring accountability and bringing the perpetrators of crimes against cultural heritage to justice is also crucial, also to prevent future attacks.
These are the reasons behind France’s and Italy’s initiative to promote the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2347, in 2017, the first Security Council’s resolution on the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts.
The same reasons have informed our action ever since, and I am particularly appreciative of the interest and the many suggestions that this meeting brought about on how to better operationalize resolution 2347 and keep the protection of cultural heritage at the forefront of our action. Defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue: it is a security imperative, inseparable from the imperative of defending human lives.
In light of the above, in the last few years Italy has financed many UNESCO restauration and conservation projects of endangered sites: in the Mediterranean, in Iraq, in Africa (Ethiopia and Mali), and in Asia (Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia).
In the context of Italy’s overall support to Ukraine and its people after the illegal Russian aggression, the Italian ‘Blue Helmets for Culture’ Task Force, in cooperation with the Italian Civil Protection Department, has dispatched technical materials for securing and salvaging Ukraine’s cultural heritage that was destroyed, damaged or threatened during the war. Italy actively supported the inclusion of the city of Odessa in UNESCO’s World Heritage List and in the list of the endangered sites. We support Ukrainian refugee artists, and we are ready to stand by Ukraine to tackle trafficking and to reconstruct its damaged heritage, once the conditions on the ground are met.
Chairs, Italy is fully convinced that culture is a “global public good”, as rightly declared by the 150 Ministers of Culture who took part in the MONDIACULT Conference last September. We therefore stand ready, within our longstanding cooperation with UNESCO, and with our international partners, to advance the dossier on the protection of cultural heritage at the United Nations and on the field.