The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, participated in the roundtable "Palmyra Talks" organized by the Austrian Ministry of Culture, at the launch of the Emergency Red List of Libyan Cultural Objects at Risk in German by ICOM (International Council of Museums). The event was organized in the famous Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, in the presence of Dr. Michael Linhart, Secretary General for Foreign Affairs of the Ministry of European Affairs of Austria, Dr. Christoph Bazil of the Federal Chancellery, Ms. Sabine Haag, Director-Generale of the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, Mr Hans Martin Hinz, President of ICOM International, His Excellency Alexa Wesner, Ambassador of the United States in Austria and Professor Hafed Walda, specialised archaeologist of Libyan heritage.
The Director-General reminded the founding principles of UNESCO, appealing to never separate heritage from humanitarian suffering in the event of conflict. She said: "we are not protecting stones and monuments, we are contributing to reconciliation and resilience of the people through culture," calling for strengthening the unity and coordination of the international community. Referring to the UNESCO experts mission on the archaeological site of Palmyra, Irina Bokova reminded the order of priorities in a process that will necessarily be long and difficult, "the first priority is to assess the extent of damage and prevent further irreversible damage. Any future operation should be conducted with extreme caution and a sense of responsibility. "
Highlighting the many threats to cultural heritage today, Alexa Wesner, Ambassador of the United States, supporter of program of red lists of ICOM, said: “The role of global coordination played by UNESCO in the protection of cultural heritage has never been more important.”
"We need international cooperation to find solutions. Red Lists of ICOM have demonstrated their efficiency to help identify and restore stolen cultural property,” the President of ICOM added.
UNESCO is now leading a global campaign against illicit trafficking of cultural property, in particular through the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2199. The Resolution aims to stop the looting and trafficking cultural goods from Syria, which constitute one of financial sources of terrorism. The various “red lists” produced by ICOM represent a tool of vital importance to guide and support the work of governments and the private sector in the identification of suspicious objects, their confiscation and return to their legitimate owners.