ABU DHABI, -- The International Conference of the Safeguarding of Endangered Cultural Heritage got underway in Abu Dhabi Friday morning at the Emirates Palace.

With the support of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and French President, Francois Hollande, the UNESCO-sponsored event was opened by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority Chairman, Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Jack Lang, President of the Institut du Monde Arabe, along with UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova.

In his speech, Mohammed Al Mubarak said that he was delighted to see representatives from over 40 countries coming together to discuss this important topic. "Here in the UAE, we have a history of growth that combines urbanisation with protecting our cultural heritage, and we have an archaeological site recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest cradles of humanity in the world," he said.

"Conflict causes irreparable damage to valuable heritage sites in Syria, Iraq, Mali and many others. Today, we establish a US$100m fund to focus on protecting and rebuilding these sites, and build a system of protecting them for future generations. This will be a historical initiative to pass down our legacy of tolerance and value of heritage," Al Mubarak said.

Jack Lang, the President of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, said that he was delighted to be part of what he called a "chance to be united in our contributions to preserve and support the work being carried out by the United Arab Emirates under the guidance of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan."

In his opening speech, Lang added, "This is an historical event - the fruit of the friendship that links our two countries - but we are short of time - the problem is getting worse and it is becoming harder to protect this heritage in times of war and terrorism. We work hand in hand with UNESCO to protect heritage and we are sharing responsibility with the UAE in this fight - the UAE is a role model for the rest of the world in our quest to implement this initiative, and I want to thank the UAE and its leadership for their contributions."

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, said that she welcomed the initiative of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the French President for their leadership and support in this struggle.

"It is my pleasure to support these efforts to safeguard heritage from deliberate crimes, war crimes, in conflict zones where great and rare items are being destroyed. Without tolerance, without heritage, society is also destroyed. Too many people have died in their efforts to protect heritage, and now is the time to unite for heritage," she said.

"UNESCO is the only United Nations agency tasked with the protection of culture and heritage, and we have a long history of working on the protection of both tangible and intangible heritage, in places like Mali, Cambodia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where UNESCO is supporting governments to protect global heritage, along with a broad coalition of partners, including important international organisations, government bodies and the private sector.

"Today, with our important partners - France and the UAE - we are gathering to create an international fund to ensure the protection of culture, to re-build, protect, and unite for heritage," she added.

Source: Nam News Network