Global Coalition “Unite4Heritage”
On 29 June 2015, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, launched the Global Coalition, Unite for Heritage, during the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn. The campaign is designed to strengthen the mobilization of governments and all heritage stakeholders in the face of deliberate damage to cultural heritage, particularly in the Middle East.
The deliberate and irreversible destruction of World Heritage sites has been part of terrorist attacks and warfare for several years. In 2012, Islamist groups demolished the mausoleums in Timbuktu, Mali. In the following year, they destroyed ancient manuscripts in the library of the Ahmed Baba Institute.
Lootings in Nimrud, Hatra as well as in the museum in Mossul in Iraq show how extremists intentionally use attacks on World Heritage sites as a means of warfare.In the light of these developments, UNESCO launched the global coalition "Unite4Heritage". The coalition aims at strengthening the cooperation of all partners for the protection of World Heritage, including police forces, armed troops, Interpol, the World Customs Organization (WCO), civil society and media representatives, museums and art trade.
With the establishment of the coalition, UNESCO can build upon existing safeguarding measures: UNESCO has been committed to seeking diplomatic solutions in cases of conflict in the past. It involves its experts' networks to document the concrete operations and their damages in order to have criminals be held responsible in court. UNESCO's action has already induced high-level policy-makers to discuss the protection of cultural properties as a humanitarian and security issue. As a result of UNESCO's commitment, the issue was reflected in resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly and included in the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Mali (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali - MINUSMA).
UNESCO is also actively involved on-site: In Palmyra, UNESCO in cooperation with UN partner agencies is monitoring recent developments using satellite imagery. It succeeded to establish a protection zone surrounding Syrian sites in order to prevent looted goods from leaving the country. Revenues from illicit trafficking of cultural goods contribute to the financing of extremist activities.
Website of UNESCO World Heritage Centre