UNESCO SITES AND ARTIFACTS: TO MOVE OR NOT? by: Sofia Rochelle R. Tidoso

Delegates from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were busy discussing the various ways to protect and preserve the heritage sites of the world. UNESCO delegates talk about the issues regarding the preservation of world heritage sites in conflict zones. Several significant cultural and natural sites all over the world have been put in danger due to the many conflicts of different societies and nations. Two proposed solutions have been raised: to remove and transfer the artifacts from conflict zones to safer areas within the same country and to educate the citizens about the artifacts.

Though the aforementioned proposals seem to be the best solutions presented, there have still been divided thoughts and views from the delegates. Some delegates support the idea, stressing that only artifacts in sites that are at extremely high risks of being destroyed are to be moved, and at the discretion of the member state.

Others disagree with moving the artifacts and sites – arguing that it is very expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to move UNESCO heritage sites. Also, it has been stressed that moving the sites do not fix the problem. “The sites are the target, so moving them anywhere else would just make them a target at different locations,” states Kate Condron, the UNESCO delegate for Nigeria. She also adds that the less developed countries – those who have less funds and resources to move the artifacts and sites – are actually the nations that are more frequently attacked by terrorists.

The other solution proposed during the committee session, supported by a number of countries like Indonesia and Germany, is very similar to the proposal mentioned above. However, it involves the aspect of education. It proposes that movable artifacts be transferred to safer places, and that the focus should be placed on security for unmovable sites like temples natural wonders, and adequate education and information be given to the citizens involved with the artifacts and sites.

The concern of the topic being a UNESCO issue has also been raised, as situations per country differ. Norway’s UNESCO delegate, Skyler McGee, says that terrorist groups have different motives and reasons for attacking, so there is no single resolution that can solve a problem faced by multiple countries. UNESCO heritage sites constantly face threats of damage and destruction due to conflicts, which may be caused by a myriad of reasons, from political disagreements to religious disputes. Finding the perfect resolution proves to be challenging for the delegates, as there are several aspects to consider. Condron adds, “Not the actual sites are the issue, I think it’s the culture behind it.”