Wednesday 17 July 2013

Rothfield on Syria: UNESCO Handwringing Insufficient

Larry Rothfield has a good post on his "Punching Bag" blog ("UNESCO's response to the Syrian crisis: more handwringing where new ideas are needed" Wednesday, July 17, 2013)
In response to the latest footage showing, again, shelling of World Heritage sites in Syria, the head of UNESCO has issued yet another in a series of futile calls for an end to such destruction. What is most depressing is not just that these appeals are almost certain to fall on deaf ears, but that Ms. Bokova is missing the opportunity to call for changes that need to be made in the international instruments she cites -- changes that are desperately needed if there is to be any hope of reducing site destruction going forward -- whether such destruction is due to military action, as in the case of Syria, or to the actions of antiquities looters who operate with impunity in these conditions.
He then discusses some possible changes in the application of the 1954 Hague Convention, and then offers some insightful comments on the World Heritage Convention. These changes are among those that it increasingly appears are vitally necessary if these two documents are to be worth more than the paper their multilingual texts are printed on.
These are, admittedly, not necessarily easy changes to effectuate. But that is all the more reason for the head of UNESCO to be forcefully advocating for them, or for some other innovations. The problem is too dire to settle for the usual "I am shocked" pronouncements.

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