Security Council Arria-formula meeting
on the destruction of cultural heritage as a consequence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine
15 July 2022
Statement by Italy
Italy welcomes this Arria-formula meeting and is grateful to Albania and Poland for taking the initiative. We also appreciate the valuable contributions of the briefers.
The destruction of Ukraine’s cultural heritage is another dramatic consequence of the unprovoked and unjustified aggression of Russia against Ukraine and, as such, deserves the highest attention by the international community.
The protection of cultural heritage – both in situation of conflicts and in the context of sustainable development policies – is a longstanding pillar of Italy’s foreign policy.
During its last tenure in the Security Council in 2017, Italy, together with France, promoted the adoption of Resolution 2347: the first Security Council’s resolution on the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts. In the wake of that initiative, we also promoted, together with Cyprus, the establishment in New York of a relevant Group of Friends.
Italy has also been at the frontline of UNESCO’s global campaign “Unite4Heritage” and in 2016, we established with UNESCO the world’s first emergency task force for culture: the so-called “Blue Helmets” for Culture.
Cultural heritage is a catalyser 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.
Defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue: it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives. For this reason, raising awareness and mobilizing international efforts are necessary, but not sufficient: ensuring accountability and bringing to justice the perpetrators of crimes against cultural heritage is also crucial, including for preventing future attacks. In this respect, it is worth recalling that the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage may be considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
We are appalled by the impact of the Russian aggression on Ukraine’s cultural heritage, reflected, according to UNESCO, in the damage of 157 sites. This adds up to the enormous loss of human lives and the unbearable level of suffering and destruction caused by this war. All this must be stopped and we reiterate our call on Russia to cease its offensive, withdraw its forces and return to a negotiating path.
In the context of Italy’s overall support to Ukraine and its people, the Italian ‘Blue Helmets for Culture’ Task Force, in cooperation with the Italian Civil Protection Department, has organized the dispatch of 10 kits of materials for securing and salvaging Ukraine’s cultural heritage, destroyed, damaged or threatened during the war.
In addition, Italy strongly supports the inclusion of Odessa and its port in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Finally, and as already announced, Italy will make every effort to assist Ukraine in the restoration of destroyed monuments and sites, such as the Drama Theatre in Mariupol.
I thank you.