Unesco draws action plan to safeguard Iraqi heritage

Paris: Concerned about illicit excavation of archaeological sites and trafficking of artefacts in conflict-torn Iraq, Unesco Friday said cultural heritage experts have agreed on an "emergency response action plan" to safeguard the country`s rich and diverse cultural heritage.

The plan, held in consultation with Iraqi and international cultural heritage experts, is intended to secure the cooperation of all stakeholders, including national and international organisations, humanitarian relief workers in the field, art dealers, international museums and law enforcement authorities, said a statement.

Ever since Sunni fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) took control of some cities in Iraq, the armed conflict has led to greater destruction of heritage sites and stealing of artefacts.

The participants highlighted a range of threats like "damage caused by armed conflict, deliberate destruction, illicit excavation of archaeological sites and illicit trafficking in artefacts, whether from museum collections or from uncontrolled excavations", said the statement.

"They also voiced concern for the country`s rich libraries and manuscript collections," it added.

The experts also pointed out that there were many gaps in information available which were making it impossible to draw a comprehensive inventory of the state of conservation of Iraqi heritage.

"The humanitarian and security concerns are inseparable from culture. Protecting the lives of people, their cultural heritage and identity go hand in hand," said Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco.

This action plan also aims to ensure the implementation of international agreements on the protection of cultural heritage on the basis of the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural properties in the event of armed conflict (1954) and its protocols, the 1970 Unesco convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property and the World Heritage Convention (1972).

It also seeks to enforce the ban on trafficking in cultural objects put in force by UN Security Council Resolution 1483 of 2003.

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