The first conference of the Ministers of Culture of the Euro-Mediterranean region took place in Naples from the 16th-17th June, organised by the Italian Ministero della Cultura (MiC). Delegations from across the Euro-Mediterranean region attended the event which focused on ‘cultural diplomacy in a strategic region for global balance’.
The event brought together not only top-level diplomats and government ministers from across Europe and the Middle East, but also representatives of more than a dozen international heritage organisations, foundations and NGOs including BSI and the Presidents of BSI’s founding partners, ICOMOS and ICOM.
Session topics included the protection of cultural heritage from damage generated by international crises and illicit trafficking; the fight against climate change; the role of culture in sustainable development and in achieving the goals of the ONU 2030 Agenda; international mobility and the training of artists and culture professionals.
Dr Emma Cunliffe attended on behalf of BSI., speaking on the high-level expert discussion panel “Peace and Security. Joint response mechanisms and regional coordinated action to safeguard cultural heritage in disasters and crisis scenarios”. The panel explored emergency-response mechanisms and joint coordinated action for the protection and recovery of culture and cultural heritage from damage generated by disasters, conflicts and crises in the Euro-Mediterranean region, including all the phases of the risk management cycle: from preparedness, prevention and resilience building to emergency management and post-event damage recovery. Cooperation for the delivery of assistance to disaster stricken countries in relation to cultural heritage, such as relief items, expertise, civil protection teams and specialized equipment was also discussed.
Dr Cunliffe emphasised the vital importance of comprehensive planning by states parties to make adequate preparations in peacetime, long before conflict or disaster may actually occur. She particularly highlighted the need to not just ratify but to implement the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict:
In addition she noted the importance of registering cultural sites for special and enhanced protection, calling attention to the lack of existing registrations, and the vital importance of proactive cooperation and coordination with other sectors, including Defence and Foreign Affairs, and the humanitarian sector. In conclusion, Dr Cunliffe’s address highlighted the importance of local perspectives in international action.
The two-day conference ended with the signing of a joint Declaration to launch a “Naples Process” for cultural collaboration in the Mediterranean and to enhance culture as a common good of the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The Declaration recognised the key role of cultural heritage in sustainable development, and that looking after it is our common responsibility. It made a number of key recommendations, and called upon all stakeholders in the Euro-Mediterranean region, including relevant EU Institutions and services, national governments and International and regional organizations and non-governmental organisations, as well as private actors and foundations, to jointly explore how public policies at Mediterranean, European, National, Regional and local levels, could better be marshalled.