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UN Unanimously Passes Resolution Making Destruction of Heritage a War Crime

The UN security council has adopted a resolution deploring the deliberate destruction of cultural artefacts and affirming that such action constitutes a war crime

Resolution 2347 (2017) recalled its condemnation of engagement in trade involving Islamic State and reiterated that such engagement could constitute for financial support for IS and Al-Qaida. Council resolution 2199 (2015), which prohibited the trade in cultural property from Iraq and Syria and called upon Member States to cooperate in ending it, was yielding quick results and so this resolution will further strengthen international efforts to stop this trade.

During the ensuing discussion, delegates agreed that safeguarding heritage was not only about protecting civilization, it was also vital for security, and played a key role in restoring peace and resolving conflicts. 

Defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said the destruction of cultural heritage was a war crime and tactic of war, and that defending that heritage was a security imperative.  From Palmyra to the Shrine of Mosul, cultural heritage sites were symbols of unity, bearing witness to the dialogue of cultures that had always existed, she said, adding:  “Violent extremists know this, and that is why they seek to destroy it…This is why defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue, it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives,” she added.

Through the newly-adopted resolution, the Security Council also underlined that such destruction can hamper post-conflict reconciliation, undermine economic and cultural development and, that, in certain conditions, could constitute a war crime.

“Weapons are not enough to defeat violent extremism. Building peace requires culture also; it requires education, prevention, and the transmission of heritage,” added Ms. Bokova, “This is the message of this historic resolution.”

Lead Image: Great Colonnade, Palmyra; James Gordon, CC BY-SA 2.0


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