Over Five Decades of Cooperation between Afghanistan, UNESCO and Italy to preserve Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage

Inaugurated in Florence (Italy) on 2 of October, UNESCO’s Third World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries (FOCUS), examined how culture can contribute to a sustainable future by stimulating employment, growth and innovation. The Forum, which closed on 4 October, marks a decisive step in formulating the United Nations’ programme for sustainable development after 2015.

More than 300 public and private sector representatives from the world of culture took part in the event at the Palazzo Vecchio. It was co-organized by UNESCO, the Government of Italy, the Region of Tuscany Region, and the Municipality of Florence.

“Culture is the petrol of countries that are rich in history and talent. In a global economy of knowledge, investing in culture represents a forward looking decision,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, at the opening of the Forum. “I believe countries must invest in culture with the same determination they bring to investing in energy resources, in new technologies. […] In a difficult economic environment, we must look for activities that reinforce social cohesion, and culture offers solutions in this regard,” she added.

The Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Dario Franceschini, the President of the Tuscany Region, Enrico Rossi, the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, alongside ministers and senior representatives of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Indonesia, Mali, Morocco, Myanmar and Serbia, shared their perspectives with a view to adopting, at the end of their work, a “Florence Declaration.” The Declaration proposed effective ways to include culture in the post-2015 development agenda, which will be debated at the General Assembly of the United Nations next year.

The third edition of the World Forum on Cultural and Cultural Industries featured, in a photo exhibition, the tripartite cooperation between UNESCO, Afghanistan and Italy to preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage over the past five decades.

As stated by H.E. Dr. Sayeed Makhdoom Raheen, Minister of Information and Culture, Afghanistan is “deeply grateful to the people and government of Italy for their continued support to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, and for the partnership that Italy has helped forge with UNESCO to promote the same noble goals of a peaceful Afghanistan through intercultural dialogue within Afghanistan and between the Afghan people and the people of Italy”

The government of Italy has been one of UNESCO’s main partners in this field, contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage in Afghanistan since the late 1950s. The Italian government first supported cultural heritage in Ghazni in the 1950s through the Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (IsIAO) with scientific and archaeological missions. In the 1960s and 70s, contribution to this sector continued with Italian-funded UNESCO restoration projects in Herat. Over the past 12 years, the Italian-funded cultural heritage projects widely contributed to nation building in Afghanistan.