#Unite4Heritage is a global movement that aims at safeguarding and celebrating cultural heritage that is under threat, especially in regions of conflict or military action. The initiative is an answer to radicalization, extremism and hate-speech, the resulting acts of which include the destruction and stealing of cultural riches.
The campaign is a global call that sets to put forward the importance and significance of cultural heritage. In her addresses Irina Bokova has numerously pointed out that “cultural riches have a universal value. It’s not about stones and buildings, but values, ideas and a feeling of belonging.”
The initiative was officially launched by the Secretary General on 28th of March at the University of Baghdad in the presence of students, faculty members and representatives of the Iraqi government.
This campaign by Irina Bokova has been an answer to the unprecedented violation and destruction of cultural heritage. The initiative aims at being a deterrent to extremism and radicalization mostly among the youth. It is for this reason that the main target group of #Unite4heritage is young people, with online channels of communications, through social media – especially popular and accessible among students and youngsters. Anyone who feels sympathetic can share pictures in the social media and tell a short story of the cultural riches meaningful to her.
Except for Iraq, the initiative was undertaken by other countries from the Middle East and North Africa region, such as Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon.
Jordan has its UNESCO Bureau in Amman, keeping up the initiative by encouraging and supporting young people that want to share their viewpoint about safeguarding cultural riches. The Bureau is trying to stress the importance of cultural heritage as a means of stimulating variety and tolerance.
In Egypt it was Irina Bokova who personally launched the campaign in Cairo, at the Museum of Islamic Art with the support by the Egypt Ministry of Cultural. In his speech the Director General of UNESCO pointed that the initiative aims at encouraging dialogue, tolerance, understanding towards others, thus paving the way towards young people’s hearts and minds.
In April 2015 Lebanon also joined #Unite4Heritage at a special event, organized by UNESCO Bureau in Beirut. The core values and aims of the campaign were once more reaffirmed.
During the entire 2015 the question of protecting cultural heritage was among the most important ones to UNESCO. On 29th of June 2015 the Director General Irina Bokova launched the global coalition #Unite4Heritage during the 39th Session of the Committee of Cultural Heritage in Bonn, Germany. The campaign requires mobilization of governments and all interested parties against the threat of intentional destruction and stealing of cultural heritage, especially in the Middle East. The coalition sets forth the aim to strengthen the partnership among actors for the safeguarding of world heritage, among which are police and armed forces, Interpol, World Customs Organization, civil society, NGOs, media representatives, museum institutions, artists, traders of arts and cultural artefacts, etc.
The Session ended with the accession of the Bonn Declaration of World Heritage.