Rebuilding Timbuktu’s Past for Mali’s Future

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To appeal for support of its work in restoring Malian monuments, the UNESCO hosted a press conference to inform the press on the progress. Ms. Jensen opened the conference by underscoring that destruction of culture “destroys not only the past, but also the future”. Citing Security Council Resolution 2164 and the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Ms. Jensen stated that the destruction of heritage sites inflicted in the city of Timbuktu, home to 16 World Heritage Sites, was illegal.

Turning the nuances of UNESCO’s assistance in rebuilding the Islamic mausoleums, Mr. Assomo highlighted that it is the local imams, masons and custodians of the mausoleums that determined the assistance required from UNESCO. He explained that the locality of the team is largely due to the fact that the restoration work is a sign of returning to normalcy to the people of Timbuktu, and leaving it to the hands of the locals empowers them to create conditions of peace and reconciliation. Mr. Assomo also highlighted the restoration work made to the Timbuktu manuscripts, a significant part of the city’s heritage. In this regard, UNESCO took up the responsibility of hosting a global summit on manuscripts in Mali to gather the best practices of restoration. He also appealed for a further funding of eight million dollars on top of the current funding to complete the unfinished business of restoration.

Responding to a question from the floor regarding the possibility of negotiating with the perpetrators of destruction, both representatives from UNESCO highlighted that the organization has, within their role as a normative agency of the UN, condemned such actions. It also alerted member states on the scale of damage and the need to intervene.

Meeting Title: Press conference on “Rebuilding Timbuktu: The restoration of an intellectual and spiritual capital and its vital role in Mali’s post-conflict recovery”
Speakers: Ms. Vibeka Jensen, Director of UNESCO Office in New York; Mr. Lazare Eloudou Assomo, UNESCO Representative to Mali; Members of the UN Correspondent Association
Location: Press Briefing Room, United Nations
Date: 27 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Harrison Chung
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

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