||Regional Symposium: Protection of Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 22 - 24 May 2012
23 May. Under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah, and in the framework of ICCROM’s ATHAR Programme and the newly-established ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre (Architectural-Archaeological Tangible Heritage in the Arab Region) in Sharjah, a three-day Regional Symposium on the “Protection of Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis” is currently being held at the Centre of Gulf Studies and the American University of Sharjah (AUS).
This is the first major activity attributed to the ATHAR Centre, whose new facilities in University City will officially open later this year. The symposium is hosted in partnership with the College of Architecture, Art and Design, AUS; Dr Sultan Al Qassimi Centre of Gulf Studies; and the Sharjah Museums Department.
The purpose of the symposium is to establish a regional framework to guide national policies for heritage protection in times of crisis in relation to planning, infrastructure, law and public awareness. Relevant case studies are being presented on topics such as threats and damage caused through war, intolerance, civil unrest, theft and illicit traffic of cultural artefacts. The objective is to understand how their impact on heritage might be minimized.
Recent social and political upheavals in several countries have negatively affected cultural heritage in the Arab region. Considering this context, the workshop aims to assess several key issues: what types of cultural heritage have been and are being damaged; weaknesses that have been identified in the current heritage protection systems during recent events; measures to be taken to recover damaged cultural heritage; the role cultural heritage can play in recovery and reconciliation. The proceedings of the symposium will be published later.
Dr Zaki Aslan, Director of ATHAR Regional Centre, thanked His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi for his support in establishing ATHAR regional Center in Sharjah, which is hoped to become a beacon of the Arab cultural renaissance. “We are pleased to host this seminar and launch this initiative from Sharjah, the capital of culture. At this seminar, we plan to draw policies and set up a mechanism to preserve the cultural heritage that our Arab region is known for. Through it, we aim to preserve our heritage and improve expertise and potential in the Arab World,” he said.
During the opening ceremony, the new website for the ATHAR Regional Centre was launched. Dr Aslan said on the occasion, “We are happy to launch this new website in the presence of His Excellency the Crown Prince of Sharjah. We have established this website as we are in the information age and hope for it to enhance our efforts in working towards the betterment of our cultural heritage.”
Dr Stefano De Caro, the Director-General of ICCROM, also addressed the attendees. “ICCROM is pleased to be a part of this initiative and the purpose of this symposium is to establish a regional framework to guide national policies for heritage protection. Education is the prevention of any risk measure and at ICCROM, we believe that attention should be given to the young generation by making them aware of their cultural heritage. The best way to fulfill the purpose of preservation is preparedness for the future,” he said.
Leading experts from around the world are attending the symposium. The event includes presentations, discussions, plenary brainstorming sessions and group work divided over three days by theme. The first day addressed the topic “Assessing the Damage to Cultural Heritage and Evaluating Current Systems of Protection;” the second day is dealing with “Protecting Cultural Heritage During Crises and Legal Provisions” and the final day is dedicated to the “Protection of Cultural Heritage and its Role in the Recovery and Reconciliation Process.”
In the first lecture of the symposium, Dr Mounir Bouchenaki, Special Adviser and former Director-General of ICCROM, thanked the Sharjah Ruler for his patronage, and also thanked the Crown Prince for inaugurating the session. He reviewed the efforts exerted by the international organizations in their attempt to preserve cultural heritage, especially in the Arab region, using examples from different Arab countries including Egypt and Libya. Dr Bouchenaki also applauded the international organizations in their efforts in setting up laws and legislations on this regard.
Several Arab countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, are represented at the meeting, as well as representatives from the ATHAR Programme partner institutions in Sharjah; Sharjah Museums Department, Department of Culture and Information, American University of Sharjah and University of Sharjah. Also represented are international and regional organizations including ALECSO, UNESCO, INTERPOL, ICOMOS, the Art Loss Register and WATCH.
7 June, 2012