The Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project

The European Union funded project aims to provide an operational response to halt the on-going loss of cultural heritage and prepare post-conflict priority actions in Syria.

What are the objectives of the project?

The main objective of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project is to contribute to restoring social cohesion, stability and sustainable development through the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage in view of the on-going and growing destruction and loss of Syria's rich and unique cultural heritage.

The project is a first step to monitor the damage and loss of cultural heritage, to mitigate its destruction, and to prepare post-conflict priority actions, as well as establish medium and long term actions to restore normalcy and social cohesion in the country.

What type of actions can help safeguard Syria's cultural heritage?

Recent conflicts have shown the growing and irreversible threats to cultural heritage in times of unrest. Certain measures can substantially contribute to reducing the impact of these threats through strong awareness-raising campaigns, improving understanding on the current situation, strengthening technical capacities of cultural heritage professionals, customs officers, and knowledge bearers, as well as coordinating international and national efforts.

UNESCO is implementing a three-pronged approach:

  1. monitor and assess the cultural heritage situation in Syria through updated and continued knowledge and documentation shared by UNESCO, its partners and all stakeholders involved in safeguarding Syria's cultural heritage, which are widely disseminated on the Observatory of Syrian Cultural Heritage. This platform provides information on damages and looting of sites and structures, as well as information on on-going projects and initiatives to protect and safeguard cultural heritage. In parallel, a database of experts and available documentation on cultural heritage in Syria are being constantly updated to create optimal conditions for post-conflict recovery activities.
  2. mitigate the destruction and loss of Syrian cultural heritage through national and international awareness-raising efforts. A multimedia awareness-raising campaign, using international, regional and national media and social networks, and will include the dissemination of video clips, a documentary and a publication on Syrian cultural heritage. Educational activities on cultural heritage aimed specifically at children and educators will be developed in the coming months.
  3. protect and safeguard Syrian cultural heritage through enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building for national stakeholders and beneficiaries, by:
  • providing technical support for the establishment of a police database of looted artefacts;
  • training police forces and customs officers in Syria and adjacent countries to fight illicit trafficking of cultural property (and on the specific tools available to facilitate and improve the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention);
  • training national stakeholders to protect movable heritage and museums during and after the conflict;
  • providing technical assistance and training for the protection of built cultural heritage and planning conservation and restoration works in view of the recovery phase;
  • training of national stakeholders concerning the core concepts and mechanisms of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; and
  • specialized training of national stakeholders, civil society organizations and communities concerning the creation of inventories for intangible cultural heritage.

The UNESCO Project Management Unit is based in the UNESCO Field Office in Beirut (Lebanon) to ensure geographical proximity with Syria and readiness to undertake field missions, as well as swift communication with national partners and access to Syrian stakeholders.

The Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage Project was officially launched on 1 March 2014 for a period of three years.