Protecting Art Heritage: The need for the protection of UNESCO heritage sites

In 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously voted in Resolution 2347, which condemned the destruction of cultural/religious heritage sites and the looting, smuggling, and sail of cultural and religious artifacts, making such actions a, literal, war crime. The importance behind it, as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated, is that “the deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, it has become a tactic of war to tear societies over the long term, in a strategy of cultural cleansing.” The focus has come upon this topic after the Battle of Gao, in Mali, resulted in the damage, and eventual purposeful destruction of multiple sites within Timbuktu by Ansar Dine, an Islamic terrorist group fighting for domination of Mali.

This damage to Timbuktu, however, is not even the near the first time cultural-heritage sites have come under attack by opposing ethnic and religious groups. Since time immemorial, cultural conflict has been practiced through the killing of lives and the destruction of culture. Looking from the burning of the Library of Alexandria to the detonation of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the destruction of cultural sites are emblematic of a deeper attempt to destroy entire cultures by an aggressor. There have been numerous instances of international conflict resulting in either the purposeful destruction, or the coincidental neglect of cultural artifacts and locations. Recently, the US invasion of Iraq that resulted in the abandonment and looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, and the destruction of the Vijećnica Library in Bosnia, are two instances of the loss of immense amounts of cultural and ethnic heritage due to the practice of war. And as war has become increasingly destructive, it is imperative that the international community work to protect pieces of heritage that are symbolic of an entire community and hold those who seek the damage, destruction, sale, or tarnishing of such items and architecture, accountable.

This is why, in this growing age of globalism and interdependence, to focus on the preservation and display of beauty, culture, and art reflecting cultural heritage should be something celebrated and defended.

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