Syrian and international experts agreed on the urgent measures to preserve Syrian cultural heritage


About 230 Syrian and international experts gathered at the two-day meeting to assess the scale of the destruction inflicted by the objects of cultural heritage in Syria, and to develop a method to determine the priority urgent measures to preserve Syria's heritage. The meeting of experts held in Berlin from 2 to 4 June, was organized by UNESCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. The meeting was opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Maria Böhmer.

The meeting was attended by leading archaeologists, anthropologists, experts in the field of the protection of monuments, architects and city planners. Among them were representatives of the Main Directorate of Antiquities of Syria, as well as other scientists and experts living and working in Syria.

"Meeting in Berlin served as a positive signal for the formation of the cultural foundations of the postwar order in Syria. World Heritage sites represent the Syrian people's identity and will be crucial to ensure the unity of the country. This challenge will have to be solved sooner or later. And for this it is necessary to lay a solid foundation, "- said Mrs. Böhmer.
If we are to succeed, - said Ms. Bokova - we must attract the best international experts and guided by a common idea that culture should not be manipulated or used to achieve any purpose. I thank all the Syrian and international experts who have come together here in the name of heritage: this is the spirit of Berlin. "

One of the participants of the meeting and a member of the Forum of Young Experts Zoya Masood said: "It is extremely important to us to involve the younger generation in the process of planning for the future of the conservation and restoration of our heritage. In this regard, we propose to establish a mentoring system that can bring young experts and experienced professionals in the interests of cultural heritage protection. "

Within the framework of the meeting of experts dedicated to the development of urgent measures for the conservation of the cultural heritage of Syria, held several round-table discussions, during which they discussed the scale of destruction and assessment of the activities of professionals in the field of cultural heritage. Thematic session paid special attention to the role of local communities, documentation and archives, capacity building and plans for heritage conservation.
The meeting summed up the results achieved to date, the results of the work of local and international actors. They also offered practical methods for assessing the scale of destruction, mapping and inventory, the establishment of institutional and legal frameworks, technical assistance (including first aid architectural heritage), capacity-building, as well as communication and public awareness strategies. Specific measures for the historical and archaeological sites, museums, movable cultural property and intangible heritage were identified and listed in the Recommendation and the Roadmap, adopted by UNESCO in 2014.

The meeting also discussed a very important and still unsolved problem of looting and trafficking in cultural property. They called to make a comprehensive list of stolen cultural objects from Syria and addressed to the governments of all countries to implement the resolution of the United Nations Security Council, which prohibits trade in cultural values ​​of Syria.

Experts also appealed to the international institutions dealing with finance and development, to include cultural heritage in the main program for funding and post-conflict reconstruction.
The meeting provided an opportunity for UNESCO to update and improve the Action Plan for the implementation of urgent measures aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of Syria, adopted at the first meeting of experts on the subject of Syria Heritage, organized by UNESCO in 2014.

"This meeting showed that all stakeholders are able and willing to work together to protect the cultural heritage of Syria, - said the director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums Nazir Awad. - We hope that this meeting will provide opportunities for further support. "
Several Syrian experts stressed the need to work together to achieve a common goal to protect and preserve cultural heritage. All participants noted the great potential of culture in support of humanitarian response, strengthening social cohesion and dialogue. They also stressed the important role of the Main Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of Syria, non-governmental organizations and civil society (in particular the Syrian citizens who risk their lives to protect heritage) in achieving the goals and appealed to the international community to provide them with additional support.

Meeting in Berlin, organized two years after the first meeting of experts on Syrian cultural heritage, pursued three main objectives: the exchange of information on the state of all objects Syrian cultural heritage, the search for consensus in determining initial priorities and urgent measures, as well as coordination of activities and the development of common position.
After the meeting, the experts provided suggestions for improving the future prospects of the protection of the Syrian heritage through post-conflict reconstruction plans. They also stressed the need for capacity-building initiatives in all regions of the country, as well as a significant increase in the volume of funds and support. The experts also noted the need to involve all stakeholders, including humanitarian actors, as well as emphasized the central role of local communities and the coordination of UNESCO's activities.

At the close of the meeting the director of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO, Ms. Mechtild Rössler noted the key role of culture and identity, as well as the need to ensure the protection of cultural heritage. "I thank all participants for their constructive contributions and approach. We need a spirit of cooperation, to work together on future plans for the restoration of heritage sites, as well as on current projects for the urgent work to secure Syria's cultural heritage. "
The international meeting of experts was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, in cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Gerda Henkel Foundation and the German Commission for UNESCO.