United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to intensify the global response to protect cultural heritage, treasures and to end illicit trafficking.
"Combatants that attack cultural treasures want to damage more than artefacts – they aim to tear at the fabric of societies," the UN chief said, reports UNB.
He said this in remarks presented by Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) at a high-level event titled "Protecting Cultural Heritage – an Imperative for Humanity: Acting together against the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorist groups and organised crime."
And protection is about more than shielding stones and buildings – it is part of efforts to defend human rights and save people's lives, he added.
The event – held at UN headquarters in New York on Thursday afternoon – was co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Italy and Jordan, in collaboration with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), UNESCO and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), according to UN news.
"We have a strong legal basis that we must apply through action to protect treasures and end illicit trafficking," Ban said. "When we 'unite4heritage', we will advance our broader campaign for a more just, peaceful and sustainable future."
In June last, Unesco and the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that they are working together in the fight against impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, which they said could constitute a war crime.
Besides, in February, Unesco and the government of Italy agreed to establish a taskforce of experts focusing on the conservation of cultural heritage affected by crises around the world.
Next week, the 4th session of the subsidiary committee of Unesco's Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property will, among other agenda items, focus on issues such as online sales, a new international mechanism on the repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains, and money laundering.
An action plan for the return of cultural objects illegally offered for sale will also be examined. –RH