On Monday, 18 February 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, opened the first international meeting of experts to safeguard the cultural heritage of Mali, just two weeks after her mission to Mali. Organized within the framework of the Day of Solidarity with Mali, and seeking to coordinate the efforts of the international community and all partners, the meeting was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in the presence of Ms. Aurélie Filippetti, Minister of Culture and Communication of France, and Mr. Bruno Maiga, Minister of Culture of Mali.
In her opening remarks, the Director-General stated that "we have gathered to transform indignation into action – Mali’s heritage is much more than an inscription on UNESCO’s list, it is the legacy of an ancient culture, a testimony of dialogue between cultures, and it is our duty to do everything possible to protect it”.
Aurélie Filippetti expressed France's determination to face up to the situation of the country: "France is committed alongside Mali to protect its territorial integrity, and we will also be at its side to protect its culture". The Minister underlined the role of the French National Institute for Heritage in training professionals and in strengthening capacities in Mali, and the commitment of the National Library of France (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) to support the safeguarding of manuscripts. Quoting the singer Youssou N’Dour, "Mali is the Source," she said.
"It is a great comfort to the people and the Government of Mali to see such a strong international mobilization for its cultural heritage," said Mr Bruno Maiga, Malian Minister of Culture. "The greatest wealth,” he said, “is not to have pockets full of gold but to be able to count on the support of others”.
Throughout the day, experts of cultural heritage worked to fine-tune an action plan for the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and manuscripts in the region. UNESCO will send a mission on the ground to make a full assessment of the damage and the implementation of this action plan as soon as the situation allows it.
"Together, let us give a fresh start to Mali’s heritage, a new beginning," declared the Director-General.