Cultural Heritage protected by UK chaired UN Security Council

A UN Resolution to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council on 24 March 2017.

The Briefing and Resolution was held at the initiative of France and Italy and under the Presidency of the United Kingdom. Resolution 2347 is the first-ever resolution adopted by the Security Council to focus on cultural heritage worldwide. It underlines how the destruction of cultural heritage can hamper post-conflict reconciliation, undermine economic and cultural development, and how – in certain situations –could constitute a war crime.

The Resolution covers recommendations to prevent and counter the illicit trade and trafficking in cultural property, including calling on Member States to introduce effective national measures at both legislative and operational levels. It also calls upon Member States to develop (with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNESCO and Interpol) broad law enforcement and judicial cooperation in preventing and countering all forms and aspects of trafficking in cultural property.

In a statement to the Council, the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Peter Wilson, said:

“This unanimous resolution shows the strength of our resolve and of our condemnation of such actions. It shows our commitment and determination to act against perpetrators so that we can combat terrorism, prevent conflict and protect vulnerable communities. But as with so many issues before this Council, implementation is now needed. The UK will do its utmost to do so.”

The Resolution was adopted after the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, briefed the Security Council on “Maintenance of international peace and security: destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict”. In her address, Ms Bokova stated:

“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, it has become a tactic of war to tear societies over the long term, in a strategy of cultural cleansing. This is why defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives”

Regarding UNESCO, the Resolution welcomes the central role played by the organisation through programmes such as #Unite4Heritage. The programme is a global movement to celebrate and safeguard cultural heritage and diversity around the world. The campaign calls on everyone to celebrate the places, objects and cultural traditions that make the world such a rich and vibrant place. The Resolution also encourages Member States to enhance cooperation through joint initiatives within the scope of relevant UNESCO programmes.

See the UN Resolution text on the UN Security Council website.