​The UAE has co-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 2347 (2017), on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflicts, the first ever UNSC resolution to focus specifically on this issue.

The resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the Council on 24th March 2017, provides a global framework to combat the unlawful destruction and trafficking of cultural property during armed conflicts, particularly by terrorist groups such as Daesh. This builds on SC Resolution No. 2199 (2015), which links the illicit trafficking of cultural property to the financing of terrorist groups, including Da’esh and Al-Nusra Front.

The resolution follows up on the UAE-French initiative, which culminated with the Abu Dhabi Declaration adopted at the Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage in December 2016. The Abu Dhabi Declaration included a commitment to two goals: the creation of an international fund for the protection of endangered cultural heritage in armed conflict, and the creation of safe havens to temporarily safeguard endangered cultural property in countries affected, and if necessary in other countries.

The resolution No. 2347 refers to the international fund announced by the Declaration, the UNESCO Heritage emergency fund as well as other initiatives, and encourages Member States to provide financial contributions to support preventive and emergency operations, fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property, and undertake all appropriate efforts for the recovery of cultural heritage.

During a pledge conference held in France on 20th March 2017, the UAE announced a contribution of US$15 million to the international fund established pursuant to the Declaration, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas.

Further, the resolution urges member states to introduce measures at the national level to prevent and counter trafficking in national cultural property through the creation of a network of “safe havens” in their own territories. Joint efforts by the UAE and France in creating a network of safe havens was welcomed by several members of the Council during the briefing.

In addition, the resolution No. 2347 condemns the destruction of and illegal trafficking in cultural property and the systematic campaigns of illegal excavation, looting and smuggling, especially by terrorist organisations. It affirms that such unlawful attacks, may under certain circumstances constitute a war crime and calls for accountability.

The resolution requests member states to take appropriate measures to prevent and counter cross-border trade and trafficking in cultural property originating from conflict zones, notably from terrorist groups, and allowing for their eventual safe return. It also urges member states to expand their cooperation with law enforcement and judicial agencies and to cooperate through joint initiatives within the scope of relevant UNESCO programmes.

Additional measures proposed by the resolution include developing inventory lists of cultural properties; adopting adequate and effective regulations on exports and imports; and engaging with museums and other relevant actors on best practices.

Following the vote on resolution No. 2347, the Council heard a briefing from Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and General Fabrizio Parrulli, Commander of the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

On the adoption of the resolution, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stated, “Today, more than ever, the world’s cultural heritage is threatened by conflict and terrorism. In December 2016, we asked the Security Council to support us in achieving a two-fold commitment identified in the Abu Dhabi Declaration that would guarantee further mobilisation of the international community for safeguarding our cultural property at risk.”

“I commend France and Italy for spearheading this historic resolution that marks an important step forward in the international community’s shared efforts to protect our endangered cultural heritage. I also thank those countries which, along with the UAE, have already pledged financial contributions to the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas during a conference held at the Louvre Museum in Paris on 20th March 2017, including France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Luxembourg and Morocco. I welcome this considerable achievement and hope that the momentum for further support continues,” he added.

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