Some 40 female members of the armed forces of Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, as well as female peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) came together in Beirut, Lebanon to discuss the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. The workshop, which took place on 1-3 October 2019, was the first UNESCO-organized event specifically focused on female military personnel. It aimed to increase women’s participation in heritage protection, which is a critical component for the overall success of several military and peacekeeping missions.
The opening ceremony was organized under the patronage and in the presence of Lebanon’s Minister of Culture, Dr Mohammad Daoud, with the participation of high-level government officials, including Ms Violette Safadi, Minister of State for the Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth of Lebanon.
“We are delighted to see female officers in the armed forces from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan being trained, just like their male counterparts, on protecting cultural property in their country,” stated Ms Violette Safadi in her opening remarks. Dr Mohammad Daoud also announced that the Lebanese Parliament approved in its last plenary session the law for the ratification of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, stating that “this is a positive step towards the safeguarding of cultural heritage.”
A workshop visit to Tyre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was included in the field exercise. Participants reviewed on-the-ground scenarios of securing and protecting a cultural site and artefacts. The training course provided a platform for both international and local experts and female officers to deliberate on the protection of cultural heritage in the course of military operations.
Building the capacity of women in uniform, whose numbers are increasing globally, and guaranteeing their participation in military operations will support armed forces to engage in constructive dialogue with all members of local communities in times of conflict. This can further inspire women and girls of affected communities to take an active role in peace and reconciliation processes, subsequently leading to the better protection of cultural heritage.
Ensuring that women and men can equally enjoy the right to access, participate in and contribute to cultural life is a guiding principle for UNESCO.