Heritage protection and cultural diplomacy discussed at UNESCO’s conference in Brussels

On occasion of the high-level conference ‘#Unite4Heritage – Cultural Diversity under Attack: Protecting Heritage for Peace’ held in Brussels on 9-10 June 2016 and hosted by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, the European Commission’s Vice-President Federica Mogherini send a video message stressing the key role for cultural heritage in the EU’s first ever strategy on cultural diplomacy and emphasised the joint efforts with UNESCO in the field of heritage protection. Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović and Vice-President Piet Jaspaert attended this important conference that also served as a platform for a first exchange of views on EU’s landmark strategy which had been made public one day before.

Photo: Europa Nostra

Photo: Europa Nostra

In her powerful speech, UNESCO’s Director-General underlined that destroying cultural heritage is also destroying cultural diversity. “Destruction of heritage is a war crime; impunity cannot be tolerated. We need to renew the way we protect and share heritage, to disseminate a counter narrative to the propaganda of hatred and insist on the power of culture to help people recover”, she advocated. Irina Bokova also noted that both the EU and UNESCO will enhance their cooperation in using cultural diplomacy for peacebuilding and peacekeeping.

Federica Mogherini, who is also the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, highlighted the central role of cultural heritage in the new EU’s strategy for international cultural relations. “Exchanges – and not closure – have made our culture great through the centuries. And as diversity is under attack, so is our cultural heritage. We are putting the protection of the world’s heritage at the core of our first strategy ever on cultural diplomacy,” she stated in a video message broadcast at the conference.

”At Europa Nostra we are delighted that cultural heritage is figuring so prominently in the EU’s strategy on cultural diplomacy. We see cultural diplomacy as a mindset – we need it not only for external relations but also within Europe,” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović in response to the interventions by the representatives from the European Commission. After the panel discussion, the Secretary General of Europa Nostra presented a copy of the ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’ Report to the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Alain Le Roy and kindly asked him to transmit this report to Federica Mogherini.

Protection of cultural heritage in conflict situations and its contribution to strategies of peacebuilding and restoring social cohesion was one of the central themes of the conference organised in the framework of UNESCO’s #Unite4Heritage campaign. Europa Nostra figures among the first official partners of this campaign which was launched in March 2015 in Baghdad under the leadership of UNESCO’s Director-General.

The conference ‘#Unite4Heritage – Cultural Diversity under Attack: Protecting Heritage for Peace’ was held at the Royal Flemish Academy of Arts and Science in the Belgian capital with the support of the Government of Flanders.

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