UNESCO and UN-Habitat host first public forum on reconstruction of Mosul’s Old City

Mosul, Iraq

Mosul is coming back and residents are having their say. UNESCO and UN-Habitat recently hosted the first in a series of public meetings in the Old City, giving residents an opportunity to contribute their ideas for reconstruction of some of the hardest hits sections of this historic city.

“The presentations today were really interesting and useful, and I think helped me and many people who live in the Old City understand better what the UN is planning to do and how important it is,” said as young woman and university student, one of 120 attendees at the 22 October meeting. “It was good to understand more clearly the benefits for people who live in this area and for people with worries, especially people who have lived here all their lives, to have the opportunity to talk about their worries or concerns for the future.”

Held in the courtyard of the Abdulrahman Al-Chalabi House, one of the surviving historic courtyard houses in the severely damaged Al-Khatonia historic quarter of the city, the meeting gave residents a first look at the Initial Planning Framework for the Reconstruction of Mosul. UNESCO and UN-Habitat said the work within the historic quarters of the city will respect the many traditional elements that characterize its historical significance, as well as addressing the needs of the returnees.

Preservation of the city’s historic urban fabric was a top concern. “The Old City and buildings within it are very important to us as a community. The damage caused by ISIS to our land and properties has been extensive and today you can see all sorts of important historical architectural elements littering the streets and in piles of rubble,” said an older man and longtime Moslawi. “It is good to know that UNESCO will be carefully recording, removing and safely storing the surviving historical  items as part of their new restoration programmes in the Old City’’.

Overall, residents were receptive and encouraged. “The Old City has suffered badly in the last few years, especially the historic area my family and I live in Al Khatonia and the areas of our neighbors,” said an another man and longtime city resident. “We urgently need our schools, mosques  and homes rebuilt and are very happy that UNESCO and UN-Habitat are going to help us with this huge task over the next few years.’’

Representatives from the Governor’s office, the State Board for Antiquities and Heritage, Mosul University and other local stakeholders also attended. The comments of the residents, where appropriate, will be incorporated into finalized versions of the proposals for the planning framework. The final document will be presented to the local community and the Iraqi authorities in a few weeks, again with the opportunity for open discussion and comment from all stakeholders prior to implementation.

The Initial Planning Framework represents a key short-term project to the UNESCO initiative, ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul,’ launched by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay during the International Conference on the Reconstruction and Development of Iraq, last February. The project is funded by UNDP’s Stabilization Fund for Iraq and lays the ground for longer-term urban planning efforts in Mosul.