Education and the Protection of Cultural Heritage
H.E. Haris Silajdžiž, Former President of Bosnia and Herzegovina
H.E. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
H.E. Taieb Baccouche, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
H.E. Sahar Ghanem, Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the Kingdom of the Netherland
H.E. Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
H.E. Hilal Al Sayer, President of the Red Crescent Society, Kuwait
H.E. Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo
H.E. Haris Silajdžiž
Former President of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ladies and gentlemen
We’re a little bit late so we’ll try to make it up for all of you; and then let me ..let me start. With pain attribute to a friend of ours here, I would like to show my personal appreciation for one man here amongst us who has for decades been working very hard not only for culture but also bringing the cultures together and that is what we need most today in this world more than ever ..and that man is seid(Mr) Abdelaziz Saoud Albabtain. The great bridge builder and the man of good will.
I’ll try to share a few words and I hope I’ll stay within the limits. We have the limits today because we’re a bit late. I would like to draw your attention to some juxtaposition, some parallels which may explain the tense and perplexed atmosphere in the world today; and they’re all related to culture. The first one is the fact that we’re sitting in between the internet in the cyber space and the barriers between peoples today.
So there is internet and the cyber space and they’re barriers, old and new ones, the real ones, metaphorical ones on the land. It’s hard to explain, it’s hard to understand. But this fast pace of changes also brings us to a very important problem.. and that is that we have to deal with it. How do we deal with this? That is one of the problems that I think is underestimated in today’s world…and I’m surprised that I do not see more academic works, more conferences on this problem.
So we have the technology on one side, we have the limitations of any human being on the other side. We’re reaching a point where a human being is not able to absorb the changes any more. That is one of the reasons we’re witnessing the complexion, the confusion, the tension and even the fear; even if we’re not aware of that. That is one of our problems.
The next parallel is that we want peace on one side and we have nuclear and other weapons on the other side. How to harmonize it? It’s a problem. The next parallel is that we are closer more and more whether we like it or not. I do not know if you would agree but we have less and less respect for each other. So how can we harmonize this? This is where the culture comes in. The culture in its wider understanding as the president of Malta has said is the education.So what do we do with this? The education with upbringing, not only the formal education…that is what we need today.
So the humanity has been there before…not to this extent but we have had situations with this before. What we have done was to try and find the lowest common denominator. Of all that we hold dear and of value in this world. To establish the codex of values to which all of us will adhere. Because peace is not an entertainment, peace is not a grand standing moral discourse. It has no alternative. Yes, there is an alternative to peace and that is war. In our world, that means annihilation, total destruction. That’s why we do not have the alternative and that is why conferences like this play a big role although it’s a small stone in the big mosaic that we have to construct in order to survive.
So, I’m trying to understand myself and to share with you all that I feel about it. How do we harmonize all these paradoxes if you like? This is why I think we should do. This is what we can do if you like ..that is to find the lowest common denominator. The minimum of values that we all respect and that we all teach the young generation using the technology that we have today at our disposal. Then the changes are so fast. At the same time, we as humans need the time for deliberation, contemplation of problems to bring decisions. We are incremental beings. We are not chips and I think in my mind it’s too fast.
Now, I would like to point out one particular problem. This respect thing or disrespect. I’m a believer in the better side of the human nature and I believe if we genuinely show respect, especially to those who are at this stage of our development and history are not so privileged or less privileged or marginalized; if we show genuine respect to them; I mean if we teach this minimal codex of values to children, to respect even those less fortunate, we shall solve half of our problems. It is the disrespect, it is the indifference that is creating the feeling that some people are not only marginalized not even hated or despised but non-existent. ..and that will be one of the problems in the future.
We shall have hundreds of millions of unemployed people because of automization, because of robotization. Hundreds of millions! And that is one of the things that we must try to solve. So teaching the young generations, so if we start today, in twenty years we are going to have a generation that will reject the disrespect that we reject, the use of nuclear weapons, and then the governments will have to come to terms with what people want. So we can create a different generation if we really wanted using the technologies that we have today. This is what we can do, we should do.
Now let me go to what we should not do, what we must not do, and you wil forgive me if I go back to the problem of my country Bosnia Herzegovina. A case study of what this civilization should not do although I’m very much aware of the problems around the world. Today, the injustices done to people, people killed as we speak now, the big humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Palestine and other places. But I’m talking of Bosnia, of course it’s is my country and I know it best. Let’s see what happened there. First of all, it’s a very old European country. One country with probably the oldest borders in Europe. But it is sitting in between civilizations, it has a problem. Sitting between the civilizations can be a bridge and can be a problem. So that’s our destiny.
Now what happened there? In between 1902 and 1905, we had an aggression, a genocide. The culture was simply obliterated, totally destroyed. With people in the middle of Europe, We have the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war. The Dayton Peace Agreement in Dayton, Ohio in the United States did not deal with war crimes. We wanted peace. So we got the peace. After that the International Hague Tribunal dealt with crimes and what happened there. So now we have the verdicts..and it’s clear it was not a civil war ..now we know. We knew it before but this time, it is official. We know who did what. We know who the war criminals are. Now the war criminals are in prison. But their project is free! How can that be? This is what we should not do.
Today Bosnia is the result of genocide, planned genocide. It’s the result of the neglect of the international community which helped, of course it helped, the international community helped; but this is what’s happening, the end result is Bosnia as a paradigm of a successful multicultural society throughout the ages, for hundreds of years, is now being divided as to the wishes of those who committed genocide. Few people are in prison and we have a destroyed society and Europe is watching this paradigm of multiculturism being killed in front of their eyes and Europe wants to be what that society used to be. So they’re killing the model. Watching it.. watching what’s happening in Bosnia Herzegovina right now. And it’s unfortunate but it looks like genocide base. So to commit genocide can be beneficial. And what that means ..that means that those …the would be perpetrators of genocide in the future are encouraged. It also means that all kinds of extremism are allowed because the international community endorsed the genocide. This is what is happening in Europe to a very old European country…a country with great examples of multiculturalism, civility. We are now the result of genocide. Genocide is working, genocide pays and that is a threat not only to the region and not only to the European continent..So that is something that we cannot do, we should not do.
So I gave you two examples: what I think we should do and what I think we shouldn’t do.
H.E. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen,
Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
In the name of Allah, praise be to Allah and prayers and peace be upon the messengers of Allah
Excellencies Heads of State
His Excellency Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Abdul Aziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation
Ladies and Gentlemen
Peace, mercy and blessings of God.
I am pleased to participate with you today in the World Forum for the Culture of Peace in the historic city of the Hague, whose past played a prominent role in shaping this city as a center of art and culture in the European Renaissance and to become a center for international diplomacy and the capital of international justice and world judiciary .
I take this opportunity to thank the organizers of this important event. Thank you very much and many thanks to the distinguished guests, highnesses, Excellencies and experts from all countries, international bodies and organizations participating in this forum.
I wish you success in paying for the contributions of the Forum with tangible results.
The theme of this forum is one of the most important current issues where the issue of interest in cultural heritage, preservation and protection is of paramount importance for preserving the achievements of nations and history.
As is known, cultural heritage in some countries is being destroyed not only by neglect and erosion, but also by the terrorist groups and the damage to obliterate its features, which threatens the remnants of human civilization heritage.
The importance of this forum is in the search for proposals that will be put forward and which we hope will find an echo of interest in international and regional organizations concerned with the safety and preservation and protection of cultural heritage. Cultural heritage in its diversity of forms: materialistic and non-materialistic is the most prominent witness to the identity, originality and heritage of peoples and pride of nations as it cosists a link between the past and present of the nations and it is seen as the cornerstone of development in a number of countries as it becomes one of the most important sources of income for individuals and groups through the cultural and heritage industries and the most important of the tributaries to tourism that supports the national economy.
Many countries are striving to maximize the return of cultural heritage in the development process, especially in the cultural, social and economic fields.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, many archaeological sites in some countries, including members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Mali and Libya, face a number of threats to their survival and continuity as a witness to human civilization in its various stages. As well as the illegal trade in cultural and heritage assets, particularly in Iraq and Yemen, which are experiencing unprecedented cultural degradation as well as practices of erasure.
We also witness deliberate practices aimed at the destruction and theft of heritage and the distortion of rare archaeological sites that are looted and pillaged for the purpose of illicit trade and the use of their profits to finance terrorism and its criminal activities in Yemen and Iraq, for example.
Building peace through education and the dissemination of its culture requires further efforts and work to preserve the human heritage in the civilizations, heritage and effects of nations, especially in two unique countries such as Iraq and Yemen. It also requires the promotion of diversity and cultural diversity and the consolidation of concepts of tolerance and mutual respect. The events that have occurred on many of the archaeological sites and what to the city of Mosul and a number of cities of Iraq, has been exposed to such as the archaeological city of Samarra and other urban archaeological cities , and the castle of Arbid and Ahwaz in southern Iraq, which was recently added to the list of world heritage and cities Old Sana’a City and Zubair, and Hadramout in Yemen is an example of the painful destruction of historic cities there, which were added by UNESCO to the list of endangered heritage.
it threatens to remove it from the World Heritage List, if its not protected and preserved, which will be a great loss for humanity as it is a great national and very valuable human property. Recognizing the magnitude of these challenges, we have placed our priority on paying attention and protection of this cultural heritage in the Islamic world, which is one of the main axes of the programs that the Organization works in all its organs to crystallize and embody.
The General Secretariat initiated to organize seminars and workshops in cooperation with two OIC institutions, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the Research Center for Islamic History, Arts and Culture (ASICA) and international partners Which called for the establishment of an OIC platform for the preservation of cultural heritage in the Islamic world. The Secretariat is organizing expert workshops in coming September to study this important project, especially after the adoption of this resolution on the protection of the historical Islamic cultural heritage at a meeting of the Council of foreign ministers of Member States at the last session held in Abu Dhabi in March 2019.
The preservation of the cultural and civilizational heritage is a priority and the cultural rights of individuals and groups. The organization and its institutions are keen to give the heritage a special importance in its policy or in the joint cultural activities undertaken by it in its belief in the responsibility to preserve and protect the Islamic and global cultural heritage, It is a joint responsibility of the governments of Member States, NGOs and international organizations, especially in light of conflicts and crises, and the Organization seeks to uphold the principles of tolerant Islam that respect the Islamic heritage.
Our pure, net Islamic religion is keen to preserve and protect the various places of worship, ancient historical monuments in various countries around the world and different parts of the earth.
I would like to mention one of the activities organized by the Organization for the OIC Member States which is the first event of its kind, which aims at bringing together the activities of people in member countries from each other as well as Muslim societies in non-member countries through a cultural event ,to be hosted twice a year by Member States outside the official meetings hall, and outside the agenda of the conferences through the presentation of current issues in intellectual seminars such as the Symposium on Heritage Preservation, in which the European Union participated through its office in Iraq and distinguished experts from Member States and specialized organs of the Organization.
The festival also contributes to spreading the culture of peace and cooperation among the organizations through the folklore displays and the exhibition of heritage and handicraft products and other activities organized by the festival program ,that this festival gave a strong message to the world that pure and net Islam does not contradict with the heritage or with culture or with science and literature and not contradict either with heritage protection.
The course, which was held in Cairo and Abu Dhabi, achieved a remarkable success in fulfilling the desired message of the event in promoting solidarity and unity while recognizing the diversity of customs, traditions and folklore.
In this context, the Secretariat affirms its readiness to cooperate with all Member States and relevant international organizations to strengthen partnership with European countries to develop plans and programs that will save cultural heritage of all kinds, including intangible heritage.
It has significant importance for the role it plays in preserving peoples memory and values embodied in popular wisdoms, poetry, singing, proverbs and so on. All of which are essential factors in promoting diversity Cultural and social solidarity among peoples so as to allow the exchange of best practices among States, UNESCO experts and relevant organizations in the field of socialism and economy so that we can all find the appropriate way to save our culture and cultural heritage from loss and negligence and to keep it in harmony with international initiatives and mechanisms aiming at the preservation and protection of cultural
H.E. Taieb Baccouche
Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
Ladies and Gentlemen
First of all, I would like to thank Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation and its attendees for organizing this Forum and inviting us to participate in it, on a topic that is at the heart of our interests in the Arab Maghreb Union, regionally, continentally and internationally.
“Education and protection of cultural heritage”
Education is the practical and systematic tool aimed at spreading culture in its comprehensive concept, which includes what is expressed in this axis of cultural heritage, which needs everywhere and at any time for conservation, undertaking and protection: conservation from natural lesions, especially climatic and other natural disasters, and protection against human tampering, ignorance or intolerance, indifference and neglect, misbehavior and misuse, to the systematic destruction of the advocates of obscurantism, or the effects of conflicts, wars and indiscriminate bombing..
History has recorded such horrific events as the burning of libraries, the burning of books of scientists, philosophers and intellectuals in public squares, the destruction of temples, museums, statues and artistic paintings, as well as the grave damage to ruins characterized by UNESCO as human heritage. All of that is but a result of the greed of speculators. Or the traders of religion, and the futility of the minds of the illiterate and semi-educated..
Hence, we can note the importance of spreading the values of education and the culture of human rights, which require the imbibing of the values of tolerance and respect for others and their cultural rights, which are an integral part of individual and collective human rights and public freedoms.
Ladies and Gentlemen
While cultural rights have for some time been marginalized within the universal human rights system compared to civil and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other, awareness of their centrality has been entrenched in recent decades and is enshrined in the Freiburg Declaration of Cultural Rights, which we had the privilege of contributing to its formulation by the moral support of UNESCO, which adopted it by issuing the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, followed by the United Nations Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.
Therefore, awareness must be raised that culture is the sum of the values, institutions, patterns of behavior and thinking in which members of a human group share and define their cultural identity, transmit and develop them through the ages, generation after generation, and interact with them with other cultures, all of which are fused in the universal human civilization, and are expressed mainly in different tongues contained in all universal human language.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In conclusion, we find that the protection of heritage, is a protection of culture, and the protection of cultures is a protection of human civilization. Therefore, this must be taken into account in the engineering curricula, and the formulation of educational programs and authoring textbooks, to be saturated by young people from early ages. Thus successive generations contribute to their succession, developing it and interac with other human beings culture wise and acculturation..
H.E. Sahar Ghanem,
Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to Netherlands
“Thank you so much ... I would like first to apologize for the last-minute change that happened. I hope that it doesn’t make any inconvenience to anybody, so … Thank you so much
And thank you so much for your valuable remark that comes from a very experienced man. It is painful, and the pain comes from the concerns and the questions, hard questions you chose. Sometimes going back with hard questions is better than having easy answers or solutions. So thank you. But you made my duty very heavy and worrying having only written … delivering a written speech, so thank you.
Presidents of states,
Your Excellencies ministers and representative of states,
Mr. Abdulaziz Saoud Al Babtain chairman of the Abdulaziz Saoud Albabtain Cultural Foundation,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Allow me at the outset to pay tribute to Abdulaziz Albabtain Cultural Foundation for organizing this important cultural event and to welcome on behalf of the Yemeni government its initiative to develop a curriculum for teaching the principle of culture of peace. I would like also to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Carnegie Foundation and all who contributed to the convening and organizing of this forum.
As you know, Yemen is a country with a great history that represents the heritage of all mankind and one of the pillars of human civilization in which culture and urbanization flourished. Great civilizations emerged in Yemen from the second millennium BC to the seventh century AD and contributed in scientific, cultural and civilizational areas. At that time, Yemenis had innovated Musnad Script, one of the oldest scripts in the world. They invented advanced systems of agriculture and they were the first to construct dams. Their trade flourished and Yemen was known as Arabia Felix, meaning happy Arabia.
Yemen was mentioned in many historical and religious references and stories. On top of them was the famous story of Queen of Shiba and King Solomon. In that story we learn that our Queen received a message from the King in which she smelled the scent of war. She consulted her advisors and said: “O ominent ones! Advise me in my affair. I would not decide a matter until you witness for me.” Her advisor’s response was: “We are men of strength and of great military might but the command is yours. So see what you will command.” Queen of Shiba decided wisely to use diplomacy to prevent any risk of conflict that may cause destruction to her beloved kingdom and people. She sent generous gifts and went by herself to meet the King Solomon.
In that story, Queen of Shiba taught us that considering a choice of confrontation should be studied carefully, hesitantly, and collectively. But more importantly, we learn from her that the peace which protects the prosperity and dignity of your people is the wise choice of strong and brave leaders.
Unfortunately, likewise other civilizations, Yemen has witnessed wars throughout its history. A devastating war is currently taking place in Yemen for more than four years after a coup committed by the Houthi militia on September, 2014. The consequences of this war far exceeded the effects of all wars that Yemen has experienced throughout its history. The destructive war machine is causing horrendous humanitarian catastrophe in my country. Wars and conflicts have a destructive impact on people’s civilization, and also on their historical heritage. It does not only claim their souls and destroy their gains, but also destroy the collective values and principles and the social fabric of the society. The circumstances of the war that Yemen is enduring cause a great danger to the cultural heritage of Yemen. The highest level of danger comes from the Houthi militias who transformed some of the archeological sites into military sites, which exposes these sites to damage and destruction. The looting for the smuggling or trafficking of antiquities and manuscripts from some museums came at incalculable loss. Other museums in Houthi controlled areas remain very vulnerable to looting.
The Yemeni government has been endeavoring to relocate hundreds of antiquities to more secure locations. Indeed, it has been receiving assets of some museums and transferring them to guarded valets in undisclosed places where they will not be illegally seized. There have been firm attempts by the Yemeni authorities to curtail the smuggling of antiquities and many have been thwarted by the security services at ports and land crossings under the authority of the government.
To develop a mechanism that will allow us to prevent or prohibit the smuggling and illegal trafficking of antiquities, Yemen’s cabinet has approved the UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illegal import and export of cultural property of 1970. This reflects the seriousness and keen interest to give priority to the issue of protection and preservation of our cultural heritage despite facing the circumstances of the ongoing conflict and complexities. In this regard, the government succeeded to restore precious items that have made their way illicitly out of Yemen.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is no doubt that peace is an essential need and means that humanity is seeking to achieve throughout the ages. However, it is regrettable to see that the military solutions in the third millennium are still considered means of resolving disputes in many regions of the world, including ours. The low rates of development, the human rights violations and the lack of good governance are common factors to provoke war. The cultural peace must become part of an integrated educational system to spread the principle of justice, freedom, dialogue, and mutual respect and coexistence. The next generations should be taught that cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity are factors of power, and not causes of war. To achieve this goal, we need to develop the social, economic and cultural environment for the new generations in order to create compatible qualities between the education they receive and the environment they live in.
Finally, I express my great pleasure in conveying this message to you in this important event. Your expertise, your support, your guidance is much needed in strengthening my government’s efforts and measures to protect Yemen’s heritage and culture of peace.
I thank you very much.
H.E. Peter Maurer
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
Thank you very much. Like other speakers, I want to appreciate the excellent cooperation with Abdulaziz Albabtain Cultural Foundation and all the other organizers who brought this event together.
I also want to briefly recognize that we are here two representatives: Soft Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement on the stage. and may be what we present at the present moment, being an international component and a national component of the movement is at the same time a structure which may be interesting to look at on what we can do together at national, local and regional and international level in order to tackle the problem that we are discussing today.
It is difficult to consider humanity without thinking of cultural heritage and the rich legacy left to us from previous generations. The legacy is a source of pride of communities and an integral part of the fabric of society. Conversely it is true as well that in the grim reality when communities are wrapped after cultural heritage, we see as we have seen in recent battle fields, the Budhas of Bamien, the sites in Palmeira and Mosul. These acts are attacks on shared identity, memory, dignity and the future of entire populations. So it goes to the core of the fabric of society.
Through our work, it doesn’t come as surprise to you that I mention here in particular our strong focus on the international humanitarian law as a framework to fight against the destruction of culture , property and of the legacy that past generations have transmitted . I think his highness prince Turk this morning already mentioned a lot of elements and when I mention international humanitarian law, let me just be very clear that after fifteen years of discussing, thinking and researching on international humanitarian law and Islamic law principles, we are today convinced that Islamic law principles are an integral part of international humanitarian law and the international humanitarian law is an integral part of Islamic laws and principles and I think you have illustrated your highness this morning quite eloquently that we talk about the same thing and it is the same values, the same principles, the same normative systems that are at stake.
So the protection stemming from international humanitarian law is important; let me just mention what we focus particularly on in these days. It is the distinction between military and civilian targets in military event as outlined in numerous international and customary law treaties, which is so essential for the protection frame work of cultural property, because if at the basis this distinction is not respected, we have a tax, as we have seen then. We have heard this morning already, let me just mention that we celebrate at the present moment the seventieth anniversary of the Geneva conventions, which is our reference frame work to look at the issue that we are discussing here, but also of the second protocol of the 1954 Hague convention which has a lot of detailed provisions which today are important frameworks to which we refer.
Whether in terms of promoting international humanitarian law and its safeguards or protecting cultural property in times of war and peace,I believe we have come a long way and we don’t want to misrepresent and to underestimate all the difficulties but we should also recognize that these laws have protected in the past civilian population and cultural property.
I’m convinced that the single most effective way to stop further degradations in war is the respect of international humanitarian law. Let me just share with you a poll that the ICRC has done in sixteen countries asking 17000 people what they think about some critical elements of international humanitarian law which are protecting cultural property. This is exactly going to the core of what we’re discussing today. Out of those 17000 people in 16 countries, we found 72 % only or should we be happy about 72% think that it is wrong to attack religious and historical monuments? This speaks on the one side that we have a solid foundation of consensus in society but it also says that 28% do not think it is a bad thing to attack religious monuments; and this a disturbing figure and it is exactly at the core on what we should do and discuss: how can we enlarge the 72% so that it is going to 100% of respect and this is exactly at the core of what education is.
So let me just briefly mention what are three, four things which we find particularly important? We think we need more states to become parties of treaties to take formal obligations to respect international laws and different legal frameworks and we urge countries to protect cultural property not just in times of war but also in times of peace by taking the needed preventive measures and this includes such things as compiling inventories, setting up property emergency response agencies and procedures as well as providing relevant training for the militaries and we urge certainly states to respect international law and the laws of governing the protection of cultural property during conflict.
Let me also lastly say that the ICRC is committed to support states and other actors in respecting these standards. We have our advisory services which are here to be used to not only educate in a formal way the population at large, but also educate administrations, the armed forces to respect those basic provisions during times of war.
International Law is a living body and as a living body, we are also interested to engage, of course, through education, training of armed forces, of police forces to respect basic principles. We do this through annual and regular workshops with armed forces of the world. I wanted to remind you that with more than one hundred and thirty armed forces in the world, we entertain training sessions and educational sessions. I wanted also to impress and here again prince Turki mentioned this morning what we do with non state armed groups, armed groups. We engage with some of them, more than 200 non-state armed groups in order to educate them as well in the respect of international humanitarian law. We educate our front line negotiators so that they can negotiate at the front line of wars, safe zones, protected zones for cultural property…and I thought one will just give these few examples as educational examples on which you can count on us to be strong partners of states and to try to promote the agenda which is a state today with you.
Thank you very much.
H.E. Hilal Al Sayer
President of the Red Crescent Society, Kuwait
Distinguished panel members
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a pleasure to be with you today and an honor to have been asked to speak to you on behalf of the Kuwait Red Crescent Society of which I’m president. I’m a surgeon by profession and I also held the position of minister of health of Kuwait and dean of the faculty of medicine. So my contribution to our discussion on the theme of education, protection of cultural heritage in Iraq and Yemen will therefore be colored by my personal background in medicine, public health, humanitarian work.
Let me start by saying that the Kuwait Red Crescent Society has become a leader in the field of humanitarian assistance and is now supporting activities in 16 countries around the world including Iraq and Yemen.
The Kuwait Red Crescent Society is committed to continue providing humanitarian assistance and alleviating pain and suffering that always comes with war. However, no matter how much the Kuwait Red Crescent Society and other members of the humanitarian fraternity are able to contribute to these and other countries, it will never be enough to meet the complex needs of 69 million people worldwide who have been forced to leave their homes, communities and sometimes countries.
The challenge before us is massive no doubt but as we go forward with our discussion, I must emphasize that the key to safeguarding the people of the region is to prevent conflict in the first place.
Only when this is not possible must we do everything possible to mitigate collateral damage on the people, on the institutions, on the culture and every fabric of society. In the case of Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Yemen, we are already too late. More than 51333 Iraqi civilians have been killed since 2016 and in Yemen more than 10000 people are reported to have been killed in 2015.Over 50000 dying from starvation while the world’s largest outbreak of cholera has killed thousands. Massive food shortages are likely to claim many more lives in the coming months of the year…and in both countries, some of the most ancient and renowned cultural architecture the world has ever seen, has been willfully destroyed and lost forever.
In the recent United Nations news report on Yemen, I read that humanitarian aid for the first time in four years has just been distributed over 5000 civilians living near the warring frontiers of the conflict in the Sanaa area. It is stated that during the four years of violence, many districts have remained inaccessible for humanitarian (intervention/ my addition) causing conditions facing civilians wrecked by hunger, cholera and bombardment of significant deterioration. One such civilian is a young Yemeni mother who has happened to be a photographer and witnessed to this deterioration. She described the situation thus: “Food is crucial for survival. Nobody has the right to turn this simple thing to an impossible dream for millions in Yemen; especially for women and children. Having no food means having no dream, no education, no health care, it means child marriage, it means no sense of self, it means no development, it means no life when every moment is taken by desperate search to find food. Even before the war began, Yemen was improvised in this crisis and since the billions of US dollars have been raised through international pledge conferences, several of them held in Kuwait, the activities of many international humanitarian organizations, including Kuwait Red Crescent Society, have dispensed thousands of tons of food and other necessity into the country. But still to this day, Yemen remains on the brink of famine and starvation.
Led by the example of his highness, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-sabah, the people of Kuwait generously supported the efforts of the Red Crescent Society to alleviate suffering in Yemen although we struggled initially to find ways to deliver what is necessary to those needs as access to humanitarian organizations was very limited. However, through cooperation with other organizations and with connections with local actors in Yemen, we have managed to deliver food and other essential items including medicines, medical equipments to areas across Yemen through Saudi Arabia and to Hadhramaut, Djibouti; assisting thousands of displaced roots and more recently to the port of Hodeida and surrounding areas.
At the conference of aid to Yemen held in Geneva, in February of this year, a report by the global coalition to protect education from attack was published, entitled: “Safeguard Yemen’s Future, Protect Education From Attack!
“ The report states that by March of last year, nearly 500 000 children had dropped out of the school since the start of the conflict and nearly 5 million children are in need of medical, educational assistance.
That goes to say that the situation is exacerbated by attacks on education, particularly air strikes and ground fighting and cross fire. More than 250 schools have been destroyed and more than 2500 have been damaged.Currently,23 schools are occupied by armed groups. The executive director of the global coalition stated that Yemen will be unable to rebuild without the educational sector being rehabilitated and this will be impossible without the education itself being protected.
We must give those whom we have helped to survive the hope for a future without violence, the chance for personal growth to recover their dignity and to find their sense of self, to have access to honest work and education so that they once again provide for their families, keep them safe, achieve their dreams and promote a culture of peace and reconciliation for the children in the country.
To ensure that war becomes a thing of the past, we need to saw the seed of peace in children’s minds at an early age so that they can grow to inform the minds of our future men and women leaders. The protection and continued provision of education in the midst of conflict is a basic necessity and a basic human right.
Following the massive destruction of the infrastructure during the Iraq war in 2003, Iraq descended into chaos. Kuwait has since made efforts to rebuild the bridges that previously connected the two countries in long time history of brotherhood. Humanitarian aid from Kuwait has donated billions of dollars as well as relief efforts by the Kuwait Crescent Society and many other international agencies in the area of health, education and reconstruction, in addition to basic life support positions..
In February 2018, under the hospices of his highness the Emir, Kuwait hosted a pledging conference dedicated to the efforts aim to rebuilding cities and towns in Iraq reclaimed by the so called Islamic State group and raising 30 billion US dollars in pledge to Iraq.
The role of education in bringing about a culture of peace is stated very poignantly with these words of the former secretary general of the United Nations Ban Ki- Moon in 2012: “ Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion. Through education, we establish a true lasting culture of peace. We are fortunate in Kuwait to have a leader who embodies the values of wisdom and compassion and who was recognized by the United Nations secretary general as an exemplary leader in global humanitarian activities in September of 2014 when Kuwait was declared center of humanitarian action.
More recently, in April of this year, his highness was given an exceptional award by the World Bank in recognition of his support of economic, social development worldwide and support of global peace.
Working with the United Nations assistant mission in Iraq (UNAMI),the government of Iraq has begun to implement a recovery and resilient program to fast track the social dimension of reconstruction that will reconstruct the health management system, modernize public administration, protect cultural heritage and promote quality education.
Until recently, donors have not put education as one of their top priorities in delivering humanitarian aid. But now, considering it’s alongside the basic life support of food, water and medicine. He goes on to say that the realities of delivering education in Iraq have also changed conception of the education means in these circumstances. Children from Iraq have lived through a terror of war. They number so many that the aid community cannot accommodate them in the formal schools. As a result, psycho-social support is now the key component of education in emergency.
How does war end and peace begin? The constitution of educational scientific cultural organization of the UN states: “ Since war begins in minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed, and as minds of men are formed as children, it is children who must learn the lessons of peace.”
H.E. Leoluca Orlando
Mayor of Palermo
I wish just to say thanks to Abdelaziz Saoud Albabtain Cultural Foundation and I wish to say thanks not only for the invitation but I wish to say thanks for the message and for the leadership; the leadership and the message is that change is possible: to change is possible starting from the past; preserving the time, preserving human beings, preserving identities.
I think that is the message and the message means we wish to have care and not to have fear. We wish to have care not fear of the past, wish to have care and not fear of the future. We don’t want to live in an eternal present. We wish to combine the past and the future. We wish just to take care of the diversity. We don’t fear diversity. This is exactly the message and this message means it is possible just to live peace after a conflict, a past conflict! Peace! I can speak about the experience of Palermo. We have lived just a past war time. It was the mafia war. It was the mafia war with thousands and thousands of persons who were assassinated in the same city of Palermo. Palermitains against Palermitains in the name of identity, in the name of the perversion of identity, of the Sicilian identity…. the same perversion of Nazism and the same perversion of fascism, the same perversion of many other terrorisms; just invocating really in the wrong way the name of God.
I think that experience of Palermo can be just useful because 40 years ago Palermo was the capital of the Mafia. The Catholic bishop is at the face of the Mafia, the state is at the face of the Mafia, the police is at the face of the Mafia… the Mayor of course is at the face of the mafia. Now, after 40 years Palermo is the capital of the culture. Palermo is culturally changed. There is no city in Europe so culturally changed like Palermo in the last 40 years. I know Berlin changed, Moscow changed. But those cities changed in connection with international changes; we are changing in the mind without changing the Constitution. We change in the mind without changing constitution. And today we are unbelievable but true. We are the safest city in Italy. The safest city in Italy; for each type of crime: robbery, homicide, violence, the safest city and in these days, in those months we are the third touristic city in Italy, after Rome, after Florence. We come before Venice. Unbelievable 40 years ago what I’m saying!.
I’m saying that just the culture of peace produces economy of peace because if culture does not produce, economy becomes weak. My opinion is that the culture comes first. There are things where the economy comes first. We think that the economy comes first at least when some of these probably illegally rich hold others unemployed and educated. I believe just the opposite. We need the culture but we need the culture to produce economy. Otherwise somebody will say that war will be better than peace, illegality will be better than legality, the unbalance to the environment instead of respect of the environment. So each culture has to produce economy. And now we are speaking about the role of local authorities and educational agency. The local authorities, the mayor of the city administration is an educational agent sending the message that we need to respect the cultural heritage because respecting cultural heritage is just one element based on identity, based on the respect of time, based on the respect of human beings, based on identity.
May I tell you! I refused the idea that identity comes only from the blood of the violence. Identity is my choice! I was born in Sicily; my father and my mother were Sicilian but I can decide my identity, I can decide to be Tunisian, Hindu, or if you prefer German and Jewish. Identity is freedom. No one can be condemned for the blood of the parents. The second is to respect the people having decided to have another identity. The second element is to respect the time. We refuse the eternal present. We need to combine the past with the future and when we combine the past with the future a little defeat today is not to die. It is probably one way to win tomorrow.
So we don’t renounce to our opinions. We don’t run, helping the winner. I think that we are accepting this condition and then respect human beings. Somebody said: “No man is an island.” John Donne; somebody said: “I have a dream.” Martin Luther King; we in Palermo say: “I am a person within a community”. I am a person. It means an alternative to the individual ,that is things only to themselves. We are a community not a group. That group would let the people die inside the cultural belonging. So we have launched twenty five years ago a project, because the first time I was elected a mayor was 1985. But I mean I started with a project: the school adopts a monument; at the beginning of the school year, the Mayor gave us each school in the city a monument and the student during the year studied the monument and studied the story. They asked the Mayor: “ Why do you not restore the monument?”. They become opposition in the name of the past, in the name of the respect of the past! You know when we started, 20% of the monuments were open and 80 % were closed. Today, only 5 % are closed.
25 years of opposition, it means respect of the past respect of the identity and it is just one way to defeat the Mafia because the Mafia perverts our identity. The mafia boss killed in the name of Sicilian heritage; it is a perversion of heritage. The German people know the Nazism. Adolf Hitler killed in the name of a perverted revolution.
So I think that we can say that Palermo is today exciting and safe. May I tell you not expensive! It means that we have some problem some economic problem but it means we are attracting the tourists and the investors. Everybody is coming in Palermo because they feel safe. In Palermo, the dog, the cat, the mouse should walk together. And the Mayor has decided to allow no migrants! I refuse the word “migrant.” My understanding of the migrant is different. I refuse the word migrant because when somebody asked me how many migrants are in Palermo? One or twenty? I replied no one! I make no distinction between who was born in Palermo and who lives in Palermo. Therefore they become safe because people living in Palermo feel at home. And when they meet the Mayor in the synagogue and when they meet the Mayor at least five Iftars for each Ramadan! at least five iftars with the mayor It is the minimum. One, of course in the city Hall in the mosque! in the city they feel at home and they preserve the city. So what I can tell you is that we are not a model but a real concrete experience that change is possible.
Thanks a lot for your attention! I am a close friend of the president of Malta and I have great respect for him because we all are Mediterranean.Palermo is not European, I’m sorry for Frankfurt!.I’m sorry for Berlin! German is my second language but Palermo is Middle Eastern city in Europe Palermo is Istanbul, Palermo is Beirut, Palermo is Tripoli. But we are in Europe. For us, Mediterranean is not the sea. It is a continent of water.
Thanks a lot.