Culture in Crisis Forum at Yale University

May 4, 2016

Culture in Crisis Forum at Yale University

Dr Stefano De Caro, ICCROM’s Director-General, participated in the eighth Global Colloquium of University Presidents, hosted by Yale University and President Peter Salovey on 12-13 April 2016.  He also took part in the Culture in Crisis satellite event convened on 11 April.

The Culture in Crisis event was led by Dr Stefan Simon, Director of Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) and former ICCROM Council Member. The event gathered stakeholders and decision-makers to discuss present-day dangers to cultural heritage, especially as regards the current dramatic situation in the Middle East and North Africa region, but also in sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide.

Efficient response to looting, illicit trade, the destruction of sites and urban fabric, the loss of local skills, crafts and indigenous knowledge, and humanitarian impact were all discussed in depth. Dr Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered a public lecture on the importance of confronting significant threats to culture in crisis, while Dr Gustavo Araoz, Director-General of ICOMOS International, shared updates on the ongoing situation in Middle East.

Culture in Crisis Forum at Yale University

“Though nothing should match the urgency to provide humanitarian assistance to all those affected,” affirmed De Caro in his address, “we must also consider how we will go about protecting their centuries-old cultural heritage early on in the conflict.” With reconstruction one of many potential solutions, he noted that if there is a lack of planning and coordination amongst all involved in such efforts, “there is frequently more damage done to heritage sites during post-conflict reconstruction than there is during the conflict itself.”

The Global Colloquium was convened by the presidents of its six sponsoring United States institutions — Brown University, Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University — on behalf of and with the support and participation of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who delivered a keynote address at the opening session. Also contributing to the debates were some twenty leading universities from all the world’s regions, with representation also of the African region.  De Caro called for special attention from academic institutions and international organizations to contribute to capacity building in Africa, in order to train a new generation of conservation professionals as a part of projects for the continent’s sustainable development.

“Our current reality is one of huge opportunities and threats,” observed De Caro to the Global Colloquium. “Heritage is a strength we all have, and one we can draw upon to make positive change, but only if through sharing and collaboration we recognize its value, and harness this for the benefit of society.”

Culture in Crisis Forum at Yale University

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