On the occasion of the visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to UNESCO, on 11 December, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President adopted a Joint Declaration on the protection and preservation of cultural heritage in the North of Mali.
Expressing their grave concern about the destruction and continued threats to cultural heritage in Northern Mali, the Director-General and the President of Mauritania urged all UNESCO Member States, the international community and African States Parties to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to join forces in order to ensure the safeguarding and protection of Mali’s cultural property, and to prevent the illicit trafficking of Timbuktu’s cultural property and manuscripts, for present and future generations.
“When World Heritage is attacked, it is humanity that is affected at its core,” said the Director-General. “And we are all called to the duty to protect World Heritage, most especially here at UNESCO, the house that preserves the memory of all cultures, during this year of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention”.
"Cultural heritage is taken hostage by those who use Islam to commit destruction," said the President. “We, as leaders, must continue to defend cultural heritage. In Mali, culture and Islam, a religion of peace, have been wronged. I hope that our voices will be heard”.
At the event, the President of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, UNESCO Special Envoy, announced his intention "to organize and sponsor, at UNESCO, a conference of donors for the restoration and preservation of the cultural heritage of Mali, and in particular Timbuktu with all concerned parties," funded by the Foundation, a longstanding partner of UNESCO.
The Joint Declaration was presented to the diplomatic corps to UNESCO, including the Representative of Mali, as well as the media.