On the occasion of the World Heritage Day: ICESCO calls for more vigilance throughout the spread of COVID-19 to preserve the heritage of humanity
18 April 2020
The celebration of World Heritage Day on 18 April of each year is an occasion to highlight the rich, diverse, and authentic tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Islamic world.
This Day is an occasion to enlighten the wider public about the richness and diversity of the world heritage and archeological sites around the globe, and showcase the efforts exerted, as part of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, to conserve and preserve this heritage from destruction and neglect.
In this context, we should recall the great attention paid by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) to preserve the cultural heritage in general, raise awareness to its role, sound the alarm from destruction during times of crisis. The support provided by the Organization to help restore and promote this heritage has been demonstrated in many referenced documents. These include advancing the Initiative on the Proclamation of 2019 as the Year of Heritage in the Islamic World, and the Islamic Declaration on the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in the Islamic World. All these documents stressed the need for immediate intervention and a contractual framework between the governmental sectors, the regional and international organizations, and civil society organizations to develop a shared roadmap to protect the cultural heritage.
Since 2019, ICESCO has adopted a new strategy based on a more inclusive and realistic vision to preserve the Islamic world’s cultural heritage. Following its inception, the concept started to show positive results clearly, encouraging us to look forward to further achievements in the protection of heritage components, primarily the cultural and civilizational heritage of Al-Quds Al-Sharif “Capital of the State of Palestine” against Judaization, looting and theft.
ICESCO has also provided the needed framework, most notably the adoption of the establishment of the Islamic World Heritage Center during the last Session of ICESCO Executive Council, held on 29-30 January 2020, in Abu Dhabi. These included the activation of the Islamic World Heritage Committee, the expansion of its missions, the development of its operating mechanisms, and the promotion of its roles, particularly in the Islamic World Heritage List. Also, the establishment of the Heritage Protection Observatory to identify the situation of and dangers threatening heritage in the Islamic world and the Heritage Project Fund, which will provide the necessary support for the authorities in charge of heritage in Member States.
This year, World Heritage Day is celebrating in exceptional circumstances amid the crisis of COVID-19, which has obliged over half the world population to stay home and led to the closure of most heritage sites, historical landmarks and museums, which used to be open for visitors.
Amid the current health emergency, ICESCO has launched several comprehensive initiatives to provide alternative programmes, including initiatives in the cultural field such as “Distance Culture,” which includes posting free training videos on the preservation of the cultural heritage on its YouTube Channel.
During these critical situations, ICESCO calls on world countries, regional and international organizations, to take necessary measures to limit the negative fallout of this pandemic on the cultural heritage sector in its entirety.
Let us draw strength from the protection of our civilizational heritage. Let us unite for a better future for humanity.
Let us rally together to overcome this pandemic crisis.
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