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UNESCO-Italy Agreement to Protect Heritage

PARIS, FRANCE.-UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, Italian Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani, and Italy's Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to the Organization, Francesco Caruso, on Tuesday signed a Joint Declaration for the Safeguarding, Rehabilitation and Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage. Signed in the presence of Italy’s Undersecretary of Culture, Nicola Bono, it is the first cooperation agreement between UNESCO and one of its member states for emergency heritage operations.

The agreement’s main objective is to reinforce the Organization’s ability to intervene quickly in emergency situations and to facilitate coordination in countries receiving assistance while they are confronted by crises requiring appropriate intervention, which, they are unable to mount themselves under such circumstances.

The partnership established between UNESCO and Italy will provide expertise in damage and needs assessment and in the drawing up of action plans. It will rely on an ad hoc group of experts, named by the Italian Government with UNESCO’s approval, to respond to specific exigencies.

Noting that “unfortunately we live in a world that is not safe from destruction caused by nature or mankind,” Mr Matsuura stressed that “UNESCO’s mission is to prevent destruction, and also to provide reconstruction assistance and, increasingly, to intervene in emergencies.” Welcoming the signing of the agreement which reinforces the “extraordinarily fruitful cooperation which has been developed between Italy and UNESCO in all its fields of competence, especially in the area of culture and heritage,” he added that “in the area of heritage, Italy is one of the Organization’s most important partners and one of the major contributors to its extra-budgetary funds.”

“The shared experience of UNESCO and Italy in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and in North Africa is the basis upon which the new agreement was built. It has showed us that, the better we prepare, the better we are able to join forces and respond to the expectations of countries affected by conflict or natural catastrophe,” Mr Urbani said.

By way of example, a project to stabilize the fifth minaret of Herat in Afghanistan, drawn up by Giorgio Macchi, a member of the scientific committee safeguarding the Leaning Tower of Pisa, was successfully completed in October 2003. The minaret would have collapsed within weeks were it not for the rapid intervention of UNESCO and Italy. Giorgio Macchi is also a scientific advisor for a similar project aimed at shoring up the minaret of Jam in the same country.

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