From left: Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council; Shaikh Rashid Bin Saud Bin Rashid Al Mualla, Crown Prince of Umm Al Quwain; Shaikh Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman; Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai; Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice-Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Irina Bokova; Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Sharjah; Shaikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah; and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah at the opening of the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Conference in Abu Dhabi on Friday. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: A $100 fund to protect endangered heritage during armed conflicts will be set up, said a senior official on the opening day of The Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference in abu dhabi.

t=The conference also aims to establish an international network of safe havens to protect cultural heritage, said Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

The leadership of the UAE takes initiatives to establish museums and protect heritage sites as part of this policy, he said.

Al Mubarak was addressing the opening session of the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage conference, an initiative of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and François Hollande, President of France.

Representatives of 40 nations, including several heads of states, are attending the two-day international conference at Emirates Place in Abu Dhabi. The conference will support Unesco’s global mandate to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts, and to safeguard historic sites and monuments from systematic destruction as it happened in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Mali, and throughout the world.

In his speech, Al Mubarak said that he was delighted to see representatives from over 40 countries coming together to discuss this important topic. “Here in the UAE, we have a history of growth that combines urbanisation with protecting our cultural heritage, and we have an archaeological site recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest cradles of humanity in the world,” he said.

Al Mubarak said the conference will establish an international network of safe havens to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts, apart from setting up an international fund.

The international community, he said, cannot tolerate the destruction of cultural heritage sites, which will destroy humanity itself. “Heritage, in all its diversity, is a source of collective wealth and encourages dialogue. It is a vehicle for closer relations, tolerance and freedom. In an armed conflict situation, heritage is particularly at risk, owing to its inherent vulnerability and tremendous symbolic value. It is encouraging to see so many of us converge and collaborate today to develop tangible goals to safeguard this heritage.”

Commenting about the joint initiative of the UAE and France, he said this is the latest example of very deep relations between both nations in political and cultural arenas. Paris Sorbonne University and upcoming Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi are some of the joint cultural projects.

Al Mubarak said the UAE is committed to promote tolerance for peace and welfare of the entire humanity as envisaged by its founding father, late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. “Our ancestors have given us a wonderful heritage that we have to protect for future generations,” Al Mubarak concluded.

Speaking at the opening session, Jack Lang, President of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and the French President’s representative to the conference, said Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed is a visionary who has promoted tolerance and protection of cultural heritage.

He said, “This is an historical event - the fruit of the friendship that links our two countries - but we are short of time - the problem is getting worse and it is becoming harder to protect this heritage in times of war and terrorism. We work hand in hand with UNESCO to protect heritage and we are sharing responsibility with the UAE in this fight - the UAE is a role model for the rest of the world in our quest to implement this initiative, and I want to thank the UAE and its leadership for their contributions.”

He said this task cannot be accomplished in a few weeks or months. “This country [the UAE] has paved the way in that direction,” he said.

Lang said he was sorry for not being able to speak in Arabic, which he said is a beautiful language. “We are organising an Arabic language festival in Paris next week.”

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and other top officials attended the opening session.