Brussels, 21 February—The European Union has committed 20 million Euros to promote social cohesion and reconciliation in Iraq through the restoration and reconstruction of historic urban landscapes within the framework of the Revive the Spirit of Mosul flagship initiative launched by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in February 2018.
The three-year project agreement signed by the Director-General of the EU Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Stefano Manservisi and UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone R., in Brussels on 21 February will also be used to fund the rehabilitation of the Iraqi city of Basra.
In both cities, urban reconstruction projects will be implemented jointly with job creation and skills development, responding to a severe lack of work opportunities, especially among young people, internally displaced persons and returnees. Some 1,500 young people will be provided training by recognized training providers, combined with on-the-job training for semi-skilled and unskilled youth labourers.
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General, Ernesto Ottone R., noted, “Rehabilitating the urban fabric of Mosul and Basra will be impossible without the engagement and participation of youth. By providing training and job opportunities in the reconstruction of urban heritage, this project will not only revitalize a city. It will bring together communities, promote reconciliation and provide residents with a sense of hope for the future.”
These activities will feed into targeted recovery efforts in both cities, including the establishment of self-rebuilding facilities, whereby the locals in the old cities of Mosul and Basra will be provided with the resources needed to rebuild their homes. Further project activities include digital documentation of urban heritage and the creation of a Recovery and Reconstruction Plan. Sites for immediate action will be identified and rehabilitated.
''The Old Cities of Mosul and Basra are living symbols of the rich and diverse mosaic of identities of Iraq. Cultural diversity and heritage are an integral part of the values of the European Union, said DEVCO’s Mr. Manservisi. “We believe that cultural heritage is not only important because it is central to who we are, our identity, but also because of its great potential for boosting the economy and fostering social cohesion.
“With this initiative, we are involving youth in the rehabilitation and maintenance of their cities, and their cultural and urban heritage. They will experience development and culture, and come to recognise what they have in common. In the long-term, this will drive peace in a multi-cultural and pluralistic State like Iraq, he concluded.''
Cultural events will also be organised around restored sites to strengthen social cohesion and reinforce cultural identities around urban heritage.
The project will be implemented with civil society and local communities in cooperation with the Iraqi national and local authorities, notably the Ministry of Culture, the religious endowments offices, the Governorates of Ninewah and Basra. In particular, youth and women’s groups will be involved in consultations to define the modalities and priorities of project implementation.