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Source: United Nations 4

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Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message on the occasion of the International Conference “Cultural heritage and Multilateralism:  Regional and international strategies for protecting cultural heritage”, held on 16 and 17 November, in Berlin, Germany:

Honourable Ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address this important international conference.  Cultural heritage speaks to our diversity, traditions, language, music and more. It speaks to the things that make us who we are and provides insights for our future.

Yet, across the world, threats to cultural heritage are growing.  From intentional destruction, collateral damage and forced neglect, to organized looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects, attacks on cultural heritage today occur at an unprecedented scale and finance, in some cases, terrorism.

Climate change is another ever more menacing threat.  Rising sea levels, particularly in the world’s small island developing States, are putting entire ways of life at risk, while the uprooting of communities is seriously threatening their living heritage.

And, in the current COVID-19 context, with the closure of World Heritage Sites in 90 per cent of countries this year, along with the considerable drop in cultural tourism, the risks are particularly high.

If we are to reverse these trends, we need to work together at the local, national, regional and global levels.  And we need to do more to strengthen the bonds that hold societies together; that allow unity to overcome division, that facilitate effective inclusive multilateralism.  I see three concrete areas for action.

First, action on illicit trafficking.  United Nations Security Council resolution 2347 (2017) recognizes the link between the protection of cultural property, the attainment of peace and security and the combating of terrorism around the world.  We see the convergence of three factors — the growing internationalization of crime, the privatization of trade, and the outbreak of conflicts in regions that are rich in heritage.  All of this means that international cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking and strengthening adequate and effective accountability mechanisms is more critical than ever.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  We need common and ambitious goals, pushing for the wider adoption of export certificates and encouraging specialized national forces and increased online monitoring.

Second, climate action.  We have reached a critical moment in global efforts to avert the worst impacts of climate change.  As we push for a surge in climate action, it is essential that we integrate the role of culture.  Intangible cultural heritage practices such as traditional land and water management practices or traditional food security strategies can help communities mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

Cultural and natural heritage sites can also serve as a refuge for communities during and after climate-related emergencies.  And creativity communities can help us to find new solutions to even the most intractable challenges.

Third, action on social cohesion.  Cultural diversity and social cohesion are deeply interconnected.  As Governments respond to the evolving COVID-19 crisis, they must work to support more equal and just societies built on effective institutions, human rights and social protection floors.  They must work hard also to empower young people and respond to their demands; and to engage local communities so as to strengthen public trust.

Excellencies, action across these three issues — justice, climate action and social cohesion — speak to the fundamental promise of the 2030 Agenda, an agenda that that explicitly recognizes the value of cultural heritage.  With ten years to go, we must all step up our efforts.

I wish you all the very best in your discussions today.

For information media. Not an official record.

MIL OSI United Nations News