ABU DHABI, -- The conference on "Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage" will start here tomorrow, bringing together high-level state representatives, public and private institutions, and private donors engaged in the field of cultural heritage.

The global event, organised by the governments of the UAE and France, will see representatives from over 40 countries, including key players involved in the field of world heritage preservation, cultural experts and officials from regions affected by or concerned with heritage loss due to conflict.

The conference will begin with opening speeches by Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, and Jack Lang, President of the World Arab Institute in Paris (Institut du Monde Arabe).

The introductory session will close with a presentation on the programme by Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

The conference will feature panel discussions and presentations, giving first-hand accounts from international cultural experts on the successes and challenges of protecting and conserving cultural heritage in conflict zones. The panellists also aim to set the stage for further discussions regarding the global strategies proposed by the UAE and France.

Organisers say the conference supports the UNESCO's global mandate to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts and aims to define and achieve practical and sustainable means to effectively safeguard cultural resources, as well as create a network of safe havens for threatened heritage.

The first session will see three important keynote speakers - Azedine Beschaouch, former Minister of Culture of Tunisia and Permanent Scientific Secretary of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor); Dr. Samuel Sidibe, Director of the National Museum of Mali, and Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, specialised expert in cultural heritage. The speakers will share their experience in protecting and conserving heritage affected by conflict in Cambodia, Mali and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It will be followed by three panel discussions, providing an overview of the current activities and initiatives dealing with pre-, during and post-conflict conservation measures, as well as capacity building for heritage professionals.

The first panel, chaired by Thomas Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will bring together Suay Aksoy, President of International Council of Museums, ICOM; Dr. Zaki Aslan, Regional Representative of International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) for the Arab states; Dr. Anna Paolini, Director of UNESCO Regional Office in Doha; Dr. Samir Abdulac, Chairman of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Working Group for the safeguarding of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq (and neighbouring countries); Dr. Abdulla al Raisi, Chairman of the UNESCO Memory of the World Program and Director General of the UAE National Archives, Ministry of the Presidential Affairs.

The session will be moderated by Professor Anne-Marie Afeiche, Director of the Museum of Beirut. The panel will give an overview of the initiatives undertaken to plan ahead and ensure that the measures are in place to mitigate the risks to cultural heritage.

The second panel will look at the types of emergency interventions that have been carried out to save heritage resources during times of armed conflicts. The panel includes Aldiouma Yattara, Director of Sahel Museum in Gao (Mali); Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Commander; Nada Al Hassan, Chief of the Arab States Unit, UNESCO World Heritage Centre; Yves Uebelmann, CEO of Iconem, and Roraima Andriani, Director of Organised and Emerging Crime, Interpol. The session will be chaired by Jean-Luc Martinez, President and Director of the Louvre Museum, and moderated by Dr. Richard Kurin, Acting Provost/Under-Secretary for Museums and Research of the Smithsonian Institution.

The third panel discussion will be chaired by Alimata Salambere, former Minister of Culture of Burkina Faso. The closing session of the day will host Professor Masaaki Miyasako, President of the Japan Committee for the Protection of Displaced Cultural Property, and Halle Ousmane, Mayor of Timbuktu, along with Thierry Joffroy, architect (CRATerre); Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary-General of Europa Nostra; Dr. Friedericke Fless, President of German Archaeological Institute, and Dr. Michael Danti from the American School of Oriental Research.

The panel will be moderated by Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture at the UNESCO, and will discuss the rehabilitation, recovery and restoration of heritage and its social impact in the aftermath of a conflict.

Source: Emirates News Agency