Building peace in the minds of men and women

10th anniversary of the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge celebrates peace and dialogue in the region

On 23 July 2014, a ceremony was held in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to mark the 10th anniversary of the reconstruction of the Old Bridge. It was attended by the Head of the UNESCO Antenna Office in Sarajevo, who joined the Mayor of Mostar, members of the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, representatives of international organisations and of countries around the world in celebrating this important event.

The ceremony represented a valuable opportunity to stress the role that cultural heritage has to play as an expression of identity and as an instrument of reconciliation and tolerance. The Old Bridge of Mostar, which dates back to 1566 and for centuries acted as a physical and symbolic link between the various communities of the multi-ethnic town, was destroyed by bombing in 1993, in a deliberate attempt to erase a people’s cultural identity.

UNESCO provided technical and scientific expertise for the reconstruction work that began in 1999, funded by the World Bank, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Croatia, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the City of Mostar, and the new bridge was inaugurated 5 years later, on 23 July 2004. Today, the reconstructed Old Bridge of Mostar stands as a reminder to local communities of their shared past and encourages the international community to strengthen its commitment to safeguarding cultural property in times of conflict.

As well as providing an important occasion to reflect on the continued importance of intercultural dialogue and cooperation, the Anniversary saw the inauguration of a new Museum – MuM (Muzej Mostar). The Museum, located in the vicinity of the Old Bridge and within the World Heritage site, was renovated with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Cooperazione Italiana allo Sviluppo, SeeNet, Regione Toscana – in partnership with Oxfam Italy, the City of Mostar and the Museum of Herzegovina - Mostar. The Museum was officially opened on 23 July 2014 at 10.30 by the Mayor of Mostar, Mr Ljubo Beslic, and the representative of the Italian Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As part of the event, a forum titled “Mostar 10 years after” was held on the afternoon of 23 July. It was organized by the City of Mostar in cooperation with the NGO “Infiniti Heritage from Mostar”, and it provided an excellent platform to present a number of infrastructure projects implemented in Mostar following the reconstruction of the Old Bridge, and to introduce new initiatives that could contribute to the improvement of living standards in Mostar.

The scale of the event was revised in view of the devastating floods that swept through the region in April 2014, as organisers chose to forego much of the funding, which was used instead to aid the victims and help with the reconstruction efforts.