Виступ делегації України на брифінгу РБ ООН щодо захисту культурної спадщини в умовах збройних конфліктів (ВІДЕО)

24 березня 2017

Mr. President,

We are grateful to the delegations of France and Italy for raising the subject of protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts. Events of recent history pushed this issue into the spotlight of the international community.

We fully share the main idea of today’s resolution — to prevent the destruction, trafficking, looting and smuggling of cultural property during armed conflicts.

How many objects of Seven Wonders of the World can you see preserved today? Some of them were lost to natural disasters, some vanished as a result of people’s activities.

The importance of the issue we are discussing today was very succinctly captured by François Bugnion, a renowned ICRC expert on international humanitarian law (IHL): (quote) “Close your eyes and imagine Paris without Notre Dame, …, Giza without the pyramids, …, Beijing without the Forbidden City, New York without the Statue of Liberty, Moscow without Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral…” (end of quote)

The international community has a special responsibility to safeguard objects of cultural heritage that represent our nations’ identities and has long become an integral part of humankind’s history.

Mr. President,

In the times of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emer de Vattel the principles of distinction between military and civilian objects as well as of respecting sites and places of worshiping, and of cultural significance became one of the building blocks of customary IHL.

Since then, the international community has developed a wide framework of rules and procedures to protect cultural objects from harm. The core elements of the respective regime are the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions.

However, cultural property continues to remain the object of destruction, looting and trafficking. The aftermaths of recent and on-going conflicts in Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa are still fresh in our memory, with numerous barbaric acts committed against the civilization itself.

Regrettably, the topic of today discussion is also relevant to the situation in my country as the objects of its cultural heritage are being destroyed, illicitly looted, excavated and subsequently trafficked out of Ukraine, including in particular to the Russian Federation, all of which came as a result of attempted annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military intervention in Donbas.

Yet, states are not the only perpetrators of crimes related to the cultural property.

There is a growing trend when such offences are committed by non-state actors, including criminal, armed and terrorist groups.

Striking examples of deliberate and systematic destruction of our common heritage by ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and their affiliates have been witnessed by the whole world.

As a result of cultural genocide, future generations are robbed of the opportunity to admire the beauty of temples in Palmyra and sculptures in Raqqa, Syria; of ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, as well as renowned historic mosques and libraries of Mosul in Iraq; of Sufi shrines near Tripoli in Libya; of the unique architecture of Timbuktu in Mali; of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, to name a few examples.

Targeting the objects of cultural heritage terrorists don’t just draw attention to their activities and intimidate governments as well as the public. They attempt to rewrite history, erase whole chapters from the collective memory of people.

Moreover, they actively use trafficking in cultural property, illicitly excavated or looted, to fund their atrocities.

As confirmed by numerous reports of the UN Secretary-General and relevant UN agencies, it has become a widespread practice, enhancing the ability of these groups to continue committing terrorist acts.

It is high time for decisive actions to break this vicious circle.

Mr. President,

We commend the activities of UNESCO as key player in the field of protection and recovery of cultural heritage worldwide. Ukraine fully supports the “Unite4 Heritage” campaign as well as the proposed Action Plan on the implementation of the Strategy aimed at prevention of further destruction of cultural heritage in conflict areas.

We hope that the today’s resolution will reinforce bilateral, sub-regional and regional cooperation in support of respective efforts of UNESCO, as well as UNODC, INTERPOL, World Customs Organization and other relevant international entities in protecting the cultural property that constitutes our joint treasure.

We would like to flag several important elements of this document.

First, the primary responsibility of states for the protection of cultural property, as it is not the lack of existing international instruments, but of states’ will to abide by their commitments and obligations that impedes the achievement of mentioned goal.

Second, the initiative to establish in-country safe zones for the preservation of moveable cultural property threatened by conflicts.

Third, creation of inventories of cultural property and other items of historical, cultural and religious importance, which have been illegally transferred from armed conflict areas, notably from territories under foreign occupation, would be particularly useful for ensuring their safe return to the countries of origin in the future.

Fourth, bringing to justice the perpetrators of crimes related to cultural property.

In this regard, we welcome respective efforts of all jurisdictions, national and international, and call for a close cooperation of law enforcement and customs agencies in investigations, prosecutions, seizure and confiscation as well as the return, restitution or repatriation of trafficked cultural property.

In particular, we commend the recent decision of the International Criminal Court that for the first time convicted a war criminal for intentionally directing attacks against religious buildings and historic monuments.

And last but not least, the proposed report of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of this resolution should provide us with an opportunity to comprehensively examine this problem and assess its gravity and scale on the basis of information provided by Member States to develop concrete recommendations and durable solutions.

We are ready to contribute to this process.

I thank you.