Delivered By: His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab, Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires a.i.,

Excellencies and Colleagues,

I thank all the briefers for their insightful interventions.

At the outset, I would like to stress that cultural heritage embodies people’s identity and history. It keeps us connected to the past and lays the foundation to build a more peaceful and inclusive future.

Therefore, the destruction, distortion, or looting of cultural heritage in armed conflict situations has serious repercussions that threaten building and sustaining peace. This is why the Security Council adopted its historic Resolution 2347, which explicitly recognizes that the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and the attempt to deny historical roots and cultural diversity in this context can fuel and exacerbate conflicts and hinder national reconciliation. Resolution 2347 also affirmed that directing unlawful attacks against cultural heritage sites may constitute, in certain circumstances, a war crime.

The UAE has played an active role in sponsoring programs that preserve cultural heritage as a part of its integrated strategy to spread the values of tolerance and diversity and build a better future for people.

As such, the UAE hosted, in partnership with France, the International Conference for the Protection of Endangered Cultural Heritage in 2016. This resulted in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, whereby 40 states and international organizations committed to supporting the establishment of safe havens for cultural heritage under threat in conflicts.  One year later, recognising that sufficient funding is a necessary component in the protection of cultural heritage, the UAE, in cooperation with France, also launched the International Coalition Fund for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALEF) in March 2017, which has so far supported initiatives to protect cultural heritage worth 50 million USD in more than 30 countries.

As we heard today, after the terrorist group Da’esh destroyed many archaeological sites in Iraq, eliminating all evidence of peaceful coexistence, intellectually and physically, the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” project was launched to reconstruct this ancient city and restore its unity. Heritage, culture, and architecture that dates back thousands of years in Mosul demonstrates that peaceful coexistence between different groups is not only possible, but it is rooted in our human history.

Today, we have convened this meeting to discuss the progress made in the implementation of Resolution 2347. Since its adoption more than 6 years ago, the dynamics of armed conflicts globally have experienced several changes – making it imperative to reassess our methods of protecting cultural heritage. Today, we are discussing an issue that is fundamental across the conflict continuum: starting with the role of cultural heritage in building peaceful societies, to the need to protect it during conflicts. We must prevent its exploitation by terrorist groups as a tool for financing or spreading intolerance and hatred. We must also work towards its reconstruction to promote reconciliation among peoples. 

We pay particular attention to the restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage in building and sustaining peace. The Security Council recognised the impact of destroying cultural heritage on the security, stability, and development of affected states. But we must deepen our understanding of how we can use cultural heritage to help these states recover.

It is critical to involve local communities in protecting cultural heritage. We must raise their awareness about its role in the cultural, scientific, and economic enrichment of nations. We must also focus on programs that make dialogue and intellectual exchange between cultures a tool to understand, accept, and respect others.

The reconstruction of cultural heritage sites could have a significant impact in promoting human values and encouraging people to work to rebuild their societies. For example, the reconstruction of churches and mosques destroyed by Da’esh is critical to embody peaceful co-existence on the ground.

In conclusion, we look forward to continuing exchanging ideas on how we can protect cultural heritage and prevent its destruction and exploitation by terrorist or armed groups. Cultural heritage does not only play a role in maintaining peace and security, but it also provides an entry point to cherish and respect the values of tolerance and coexistence, which represents a framework for our common humanity.

Thank you.