why should we protect world heritage sites

ISIS has taken full control of SyriaБs ancient city of. б
There hasnБt been any reported destruction of the ruins yet, but the world is waiting anxiously to see what ISIS does next. б For those of you who donБt know, ISIS is an Islamic Militant group that has wreaked havoc around the world. The group has beheaded journalists, committed war crimes, abused human rights, and destroyed priceless archaeological artefacts, like in the ancient Iraqi cities of Hatra and Nimrud. б UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the international community are extremely worried that the ancient city of Palmyra will be destroyed at the hands of ISIS. You may be asking yourself what exactly UNESCO cultural heritage sites even are and why any of this is important. Great questions. A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is identified by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as of special cultural or physical significance. These sites are described by UNESCO as irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. And because of their significance to the world's cultural and natural heritage, UNESCO protects and preserves the sites around the world that are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. б б б Some noteworthy sites include the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, The Great Wall of China, the Acropolis in Athens, the Pyramids in Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India, the Medina in Marrakesh. can you imagine a world without these incredibly beautiful historical sites? It pains me to even fathom that reality. Here is a full of all of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites. б б So. thatБs why this is such a big deal!


The destruction of these cultural heritage sites is devastating to the world, our cultural identities and it threatens б the vast knowledge that lives on through preserving these historical places. Destroying the ancient ruins of Palmyra, or any UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site will irreversibly set back global cultural development and erase valuable parts of our worldБs history. I truly hope we donБt see this manifest. б б 'Newspaper headlines have focused on attacks on world heritage sites, like the ancient city of Palmyra. ' Photo Varun Shiv Kapur, licensed under and adapted from the. The slate mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog hid thousands of valuable art works during the Second World War. Photo Carl Jones, licensed under and adapted from the. A more recent example can be found during theP PinPCairo's Tahrir Square, whenPrevolutionary fervour and the withdrawal of the police offered an ideal opportunity for looters. PFrom the first night of rioting, young activistsP Paround the National Museum that borders the square, helping security guards protect thePtreasures within. What isPthe Hague Convention and what does it havePto do with this? TheP Pwas drawn up in 1954 as a response to the destruction of heritage and cultural property during the Second World War. Since then, more than 120 countries signed up to part or all of the convention. But it's only now thatP. In fact, the UK was the last major nation to get on board. Why did the UK take so long to sign up? There werePquestions in the past about how robust the convention is, and it might be that those questions were a factor in delaying the UKs ratification.


PThe convention has been strengthened in recent years with theP. What's the extent of the damage to cultural heritage in countries where there are ongoing conflicts? It's a challenge toPco-ordinate and gatherPrecords to get a full picture of what has been damaged and destroyed,Pand to understand the priorities for protection. NewspaperPheadlines have focused onPattacksPon world heritage sites, like the ancient city ofP Pin Syria. In 2015, theP Pand the third-century RomanP Pwere blown up by so-calledP Pfighters. Footage ofP Pwith sledgehammers and axes has been much-shared and broadcast. However, the damaging effect of conflict goes well beyond the mostPfamous sites, and what can be seen in thePextremists'Ppropaganda images and videos. PA leading academic recently showed me before-and-after photosPof an archaeological site in Iraq. In the after picture, the entire site was pock-marked withPthousands of holes, carelessly drilled by looters looking for objects to sell. PIt was a vivid and alarming illustration of the conflict's dual impact: first, the removal of law and order, and second, people'sPaccompanying sense of desperation, fuelled by poverty, hunger and fear. PIt is unclear how much of worth hadPbeen scavenged from the site. It's unlikely that anythingPthe looters foundPwould have yielded them more than a few dollars, but the site itselfPwasPirreparably damaged. What's going to change, now that the convention is to be ratified by the UK? It will mean a good many changes. PFor example, there are very direct implications for the Ministry of Defence.


POn 18 May 2016, the Secretary of State announced in the House of Commons that, as part of the ratification process, the UK's armed forces would establish a military cultural protection group. Military personnel, police, and border agencies will have to be trained on cultural protection issues and the illicit trade in antiquities, so they canPrecognise and understand what needs protecting and where the key sites are. PAnd on a broadPsymbolicPlevel, it signals that the UK wants toPunderstand and respect different cultures, by helping them protect their heritage and property. DoPpeople in the UK broadly supportPthis decision? The United Nations' description of the destructionPof Palmyra as aP Pwas echoed by just about every major UK newspaper. PWith Palmyra, we are talking about aP. PThe point about these sites is that they are, according to the UN,Pof outstanding cultural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Their preservation and protection is important for mankindPas a whole; they are part of our collective history. P Pis not merely important to people who happen to be living in or around Salisbury Plain, where the prehistoric monument stands. Its protection isnt a matter purely for the local Wiltshire County Council. PIts destructionPwould never be seen as merely a local or even a national issue. It would be a crime against humanity that would leave all the world'sPinhabitants the poorer. UK organisations can currently apply for grants available through theP Pto carry out projects in a series of countries affected by conflict.

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