UNESCO and Italy create task force to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas
ROME - Italy and UNESCO have agreed to the creation of an Italian-led task force for the protection of cultural sites and ancient artefacts in areas of war or conflict around the world. The task force will have a dedicated training centre for cultural heritage experts which will be located in Turin.
Italy first proposed the agreement in October 2015 receiving the backing of 53 countries and the UN Security Council. The Task Force's main goal will be to assess the risks and quantify the damage to cultural heritage in crisis areas, devise action plans, perform technical supervision, provide training courses for local staff, assist with the transport of movable objects to safe shelters and strengthen the fight against looting and the illegal traffic in cultural artifacts. The new agreement also establishes the International Training and Research Centre on the Economics of Culture and World Heritage, a specialised centre that will be based in Turin, where experts in the cultural-heritage-protection sector will be able to receive training. "Terrorists want to erase diversity and pluralism," Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at the opening ceremony, noting how this is especially the case in crisis areas. The task force will operate as a 'cultural version' of the Blue Helmets, the UN's peacekeeping forces. It will be initially composed of police detectives specialising in art theft, archaeologists, art restorers and historians.
Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture was present at the ceremony to sign the agreement. Irina Bokova, UNESCO's Director-Generals said: "The establishment of a Task Force bringing together cultural heritage experts and the Italian Carabinieri Police force specialising in the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property will enhance our capacity to respond to future emergencies".
One main difference with the Blue Helmets is that the task force will not take part in any military operation focusing instead on the prevention of art trafficking and repairing the damage caused by crises and natural disasters.