The Headquarters Agreement signed between UNESCO and Italy on 27 April 1957 gave a home to a new organization, ICCROM. Sixty years have now passed, and the dialogue with ICCROM’s host country is arguably now more important than ever.
Today, Italy is taking a leading role in cultural heritage protection at the international level, a role made clear through multiple diplomatic and humanitarian developments. This aspect of Italy’s foreign policy and cultural diplomacy is both the raison d’être and explanation for ICCROM’s location in Italy. Recent years have seen many opportunities for collaboration between ICCROM and its host country on these vital themes.
Italy is deeply committed to heritage protection, and its strong engagement in the Mediterranean region is a main pole of its international policy. Both directly and through coordination, ICCROM’s host country supports nations in the Mediterranean through humanitarian assistance and capacity building. These initiatives, often taken in conjunction with ICCROM activities, aim for a positive regional impact in Africa, the Arab region and southeastern Europe, as well as internationally. Moreover, given ICCROM’s strong focus on disaster preparedness, ICCROM has leveraged its long-standing cooperation with Japan to bring visibility to Italy’s rescue of damaged heritage following the earthquakes in Central Italy.
In the 60 years of ICCROM’s presence in Italy, the collaboration framework has greatly evolved. Born at the aftermath of the Second World War, ICCROM was called – in the first years of its activity – to address the issues of the post-war reconstruction, issues supported strongly by Italian institutions. In the early 1960s, ICCROM contributed to international campaigns in which Italy was a driving force — recovery from the Florence floods, the transfer of the Abu Simbel monument and other initiatives as well. In more recent years, as Italy has strengthened its cultural diplomacy beyond its borders, ICCROM has offered an ideal platform for joint initiatives in a worldwide scenario, addressing the growing complexity of the themes proposed by cultural heritage.
From 26 to 27 November, the ICCROM Council will convene online for its 94th session, to monitor the progress of ICCROM’s programme of activities and plan for coming months. The two-day event is taking place in a year that also marks 60th anniversary of Italy's accession to ICCROM, formally established through the ratification of the Headquarters Agreement by Law 11 June 1960 No. 723.
The Soft Power Club, an international association founded by former Minister of Culture of Italy, Francesco Rutelli, met in Venice for its first public event at the Giorgio Cini Foundation and the Prada Foundation from 31 August to 1 September. ICCROM had the privilege of participating both days, at a side event on 31 August on climate change as well as the round table session the next day.
The world is passing through an unprecedented crisis, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting every aspect of our lives. While we make all efforts to come out of this crisis better prepared for such situations in the future, it has also pushed to look deeper into the underlying causes. It is a known fact that climate change has significantly altered the environment and behaviour of living beings. At the same time, rapid and rather haphazard urbanization has destroyed eco-systems to an unimaginable extent. This unholy combination of climate change and urbanization has catalyzed and magnified the current pandemic.
As we navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic and this turbulent year, the question becomes ever so critical. On one hand, resources that keep our sector functioning are rapidly shrinking, with several museums around the world closing, not knowing if they will reopen. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that museums are among the most important public institutions, and that people place great value on heritage collections.
Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Special Advisor to the Director-General of ICCROM, passed away in Rome on 14 June 2020, at the age of 72.
When I began my tenure at ICCROM as Director-General, I wanted him by my side so that he could put his precious experience, for free, to the service of protecting cultural heritage of the Member States...