The Headquarters Agreement signed between UNESCO and Italy on 27 April 1957 gave a home to a new organization, ICCROM. Sixty years have 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 numerous 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 central part 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 in the aftermath of the Second World War, ICCROM was called – in the first years of its activity – to address the issues of 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. In 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.