On 27 October 2015, ICCROM and the Government of the United Arab Emirates signed a Headquarters Agreement which lays the foundation for the establishment and operation of the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah, UAE. This agreement confers upon the Centre its legal status, enabling it to execute its functions and achieve its objectives as an intergovernmental institution in the UAE. From its location in Sharjah, ICCROM-ATHAR will pursue ICCROM’s objectives with respect to the conservation of cultural heritage in the Arab region, facilitating the protection of endangered cultural heritage in the region.
Signing the Agreement on behalf of the UAE was Dr Addelrahman Al Awadi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, while Dr Stefano De Caro, ICCROM’s Director-General, signed on behalf of ICCROM. Present at the signing were Dr Zaki Aslan, Director of ICCROM-ATHAR; Dr Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, Director-General of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities; Mr Abdul Aziz Al Mussalam, Head of Sharjah Heritage Institute; Ms Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Department; Mr Sadiq Mohammed Abu Sneineh, Legal Adviser; and Mr Issa Saif bin Handal, representing the Office of H.H. Ruler of Sharjah.
The Headquarters Agreement stipulates the immunities and privileges granted to the regional Centre. It also reinforces the ongoing cooperation between the Government of UAE and ICCROM in the implementation of national capacity building and training.
This agreement follows the meeting on 11 October between H.H. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and Dr Stefano De Caro in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, in which they discussed programmes and plans being implemented in the Arab region through the recently-established ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre in Sharjah. H.H. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and Dr De Caro signed an addendum to the agreement between the Government of Sharjah and ICCROM, providing technical support and assistance to ICCROM-ATHAR, ensuring the implementation of its five-year strategic plan to conserve and safeguard cultural heritage in the Arab world.
Also formalized at the 11 October meeting was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the University of Sharjah and ICCROM-ATHAR for the implementation of a Master’s Programme in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management at the University of Sharjah. The main aim of this programme is to develop conservation practice and promote conservation policies in Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates, the GCC countries, and more generally in the Arab region. Dr Humaid Majol Al Nuaimi, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah, emphasized the significance of the MoU: it promotes the implementation of a first-of-its-kind Master’s Degree in the Arab region, thereby consolidating in a timely manner the university’s strategic partnership with ICCROM-ATHAR Centre, whose work is focused on the conservation and protection of endangered cultural heritage in the Arab world in light of the ongoing crises.
These agreements follow the adhesion of the United Arab Emirates to ICCROM in 2010, and the announcement made at the conference of the Arab Ministers of Culture in Doha in 2010. ICCROM expresses its sincere gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, for his generous support since 2008.
The United Arab Emirates has had an important role in ICCROM’s Biennial General Assembly, and will be represented at this year’s event taking place in November in Rome.
Emphasizing the significance of this Headquarters Agreement, Dr Zaki Aslan, Director of ICCROM-ATHAR, stated that the Agreement “forms a cornerstone for the development of ICCROM-ATHAR’s work dedicated to the promotion of cultural heritage in the organization’s Arab member states. This derives from the Centre’s sound belief in the importance of cultural heritage and its role in safeguarding a threatened cultural identity in the Arab world.”