HE Haris Silajdžiž, Former President of Bosnia and Herzegovina
HE Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
HE Taieb Baccouche, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
HE Sahar Ghanem, Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the Kingdom of the Netherland
HE Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
HE Hilal Al Sayer, President of the Red Crescent Society, Kuwait
HE Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo
Speech of HE Haris Silajdžiž
Former President of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are a little bit late, so we will try to make it up for all of you; and then 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 Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain. The great bridge builder and the man of good will.
I will try to share a few words and I hope I will stay within the limits. We have the limits today because we are 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 are all related to culture. The first one is the fact that we are 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 are barriers, old and new ones, the real ones, metaphorical ones on the land. It is hard to explain, it is 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 am 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 are reaching a point where a human being is not able to absorb the changes anymore. That is one of the reasons we are witnessing the complexion, the confusion, the tension and even the fear; even if we are 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 is 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 is why we do not have the alternative and that is why conferences like this play a big role although it is a small stone in the big mosaic that we have to construct in order to survive.
So, I am 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 is 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 will 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 am 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 am talking of Bosnia, of course it is my country and I know it best. Let us see what happened there. First of all, it is 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 is 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 is 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 are killing the model. Watching it… watching what is happening in Bosnia Herzegovina right now. And it is 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 should not do.
Speech of HE 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,
Excellency Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you all.
I am pleased to participate with you today in the World Forum for the Culture of Peace in the historic city of The Hague, which has played a prominent role in shaping the city's identity as a center for the arts and culture during the European Renaissance. It subsequently became a hub for international diplomacy and the capital of international justice and law.
I take this favorable opportunity to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers of this significant event. My thanks are also extended to the Excellencies, Highnesses, Excellencies, experts, and participants from all countries, entities, and international and regional organizations in this forum. I wish you success and accomplishment in enriching the forum's proceedings with your valuable contributions and achieving tangible results.
This forum addresses an issue of utmost contemporary importance, namely, the preservation and protection of cultural heritage. This matter holds tremendous significance as it involves the safeguarding of nations' achievements and their histories. As is well-known, cultural heritage in certain places is not only threatened by neglect and environmental factors but also by the destructive actions perpetrated by the hands of terrorist groups, causing devastation, harm, and the obliteration of cultural landmarks. This jeopardizes the remnants of our human and civilizational heritage.
The importance of this forum lies in the exploration of recommendations that will be presented through it. We hope that these recommendations will resonate with the interest of international and regional organizations concerned with peace management, education, and the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, in all its tangible and intangible forms, which stands as one of the most prominent testimonies to the identity, selfhood, heritage, and authenticity of nations. It is a source of pride for peoples, bridging the past and present of nations. Moreover, it is considered a fundamental pillar in the development of many countries, as it has become one of the main sources of income for individuals and groups through cultural and heritage industries. It also serves as a significant contributor to tourism and the national economy. Hence, numerous nations are vigorously seeking to harness the returns from cultural heritage for cultural, social, and economic development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, many archaeological sites in some of our member countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Mali, and Libya, are facing a range of risks that threaten their survival and continuity as witnesses to human civilization in its various stages. Foremost among these risks is the destruction and damage they have suffered due to armed conflicts. Additionally, there is the issue of illegal trafficking in heritage and cultural properties, especially in Iraq and Yemen, which have witnessed cultural destruction of unprecedented proportions. There are also practices of heritage erasure and looting. Deliberate neglect targets the destruction of rare archaeological landmarks, disfiguring them and subjecting them to plunder for the purpose of illicit trade, using the proceeds to finance terrorism and criminal activities, as seen in Yemen and Iraq, for example.
Building peace through education and the promotion of culture requires further efforts and work to preserve the human heritage of nations, their monuments, and their civilizations, especially in unique countries like Iraq and Yemen. It also necessitates the enhancement of cultural diversity and the establishment of the concepts of tolerance and mutual respect in order to create favorable conditions for reconciliation. The events that have unfolded have affected many archaeological sites, including the city of Mosul and other cities in Iraq, such as the historic cities of Assyria, Samarra, Erbil Citadel, and the marshlands in southern Iraq, which were recently added to the World Heritage List. Additionally, the ancient city of Sanaa, the city of Zubair, and what Bani Sheban has endured in Yemen are examples of the painful reality of historic cities. UNESCO has added them to the list of endangered world heritage sites. Neglecting their protection and preservation may result in their removal from the World Heritage List, which would represent a significant loss to humanity, as they are invaluable cultural and human assets.
Recognizing the magnitude of these challenges, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has placed the preservation and protection of cultural heritage in the Islamic world at the forefront of its priorities. This issue constitutes one of the core areas of focus in the programs undertaken by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation across all its agencies, reflecting its commitment to addressing these challenges and preserving the cultural and historical treasures of the Islamic world.
The General Secretariat has taken the initiative to organize seminars and workshops in collaboration with two institutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation: The Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and the Research Center for Islamic History, Art, and Culture (IRCICA). Additionally, international partners have been involved in these efforts. The recommendations put forward in these events have led to a proposal for the establishment of a platform under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for the preservation of cultural heritage in the Islamic world.
The General Secretariat is currently working on organizing workshops for experts in September of the upcoming year to explore ways to implement this important initiative. This comes after the adoption of the resolution regarding the protection and preservation of Islamic and global cultural and historical heritage during the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of member countries in the previous session, which took place in Abu Dhabi in March 2019.
Preserving cultural and civilizational heritage is a top priority for the cultural rights of individuals and communities. The Organization and its institutions are committed to the conservation of heritage and its significance in their policies and joint cultural activities. They believe in the responsibility of preserving Islamic and global cultural heritage and protecting it. This responsibility is not limited to member countries alone but is a shared responsibility among the governments of member countries, their institutions, civil society organizations, and the international community as a whole. This becomes especially crucial in times of conflicts and crises.
The Organization is dedicated to upholding the principles of moderate and respectful Islam that values human cultural heritage. Our pure and genuine Islamic faith emphasizes the preservation and protection of various places of worship and ancient historical sites in our member countries and across the world. I would like to highlight some of the key activities organized by the Organization for the peoples of its member countries. These include the Festival of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is the first of its kind and aims to promote mutual understanding and bridge the cultures of the member countries and Muslim communities in non-member countries. This is achieved through intellectual, political, social, and folkloric events held twice a year outside the official meeting hall and beyond conference agendas. The festival addresses contemporary issues in intellectual seminars, such as the seminar on heritage preservation, which involved the European Union through its office in Iraq, distinguished experts from member countries, and specialized branches within the Organization. The festival also contributes to spreading the culture of peace and enhancing intercultural dialogue through folkloric performances, exhibitions of heritage and artisanal products, and various other activities included in its program.
Indeed, this festival has sent a powerful message to the world that pure, moderate, and genuine Islam is not in conflict with heritage, culture, sciences, arts, or the preservation of heritage.
The sessions held in both Cairo and Abu Dhabi during the festival have indeed achieved significant success in fulfilling the intended mission of promoting solidarity and unity while fostering an appreciation for the diversity of customs, traditions, and cultural heritages.
In this context, the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation reaffirms its readiness to collaborate with all member countries, the international community, and relevant partners to enhance partnerships with non-member countries of international organizations such as UNESCO and the European Union. This collaboration aims to develop effective action plans to safeguard cultural heritage in all its forms, including both tangible and intangible aspects. The latter holds particular significance as it plays a vital role in preserving the collective memory of peoples, encapsulating human values expressed through popular wisdom, poetry, music, proverbs, and other fundamental elements that promote cultural diversity, social peace, and solidarity among nations.
In conclusion, the General Secretariat looks forward to this forum as a valuable opportunity for exchanging best practices among countries, UNESCO experts, and other relevant organizations. Together, we aim to find the appropriate means to rescue our human and cultural heritage from loss and neglect and align it with international initiatives such as preserving cultural heritage as a whole, safeguarding endangered heritage, recovering, and protecting it, and utilizing all available resources to promote a culture of knowledge, peace, and security worldwide.
Peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
Speech of HE Taieb Baccouche
Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to begin by thanking the "Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation" and those responsible for organizing this forum and inviting us to participate in it. The topic of this forum, which revolves around culture of security and peace, and how to promote them today, is of great interest to the Arab Maghreb Union both regionally, continentally (African), and internationally. The first session, focusing on education and the protection of cultural heritage, is particularly crucial. Education is the practical and methodological tool aimed at spreading culture in its comprehensive sense, including what has been expressed in this context by cultural heritage, which, in every time and place, requires maintenance, commitment, and protection.
Maintenance involves protection against natural disasters, especially climatic ones, as well as protection against human negligence, misuse, and destruction. History has witnessed horrifying events of this nature, from the burning of libraries and the destruction of books of scholars, thinkers, and philosophers in public squares, to the destruction of temples, statues, and artistic works. This is in addition to the severe damage to the heritage sites designated by UNESCO as part of human heritage, resulting from the greed of profiteers, fraudulent religious leaders, and the manipulation of the minds of the ignorant, both the illiterate and the semi-educated.
From this perspective, the importance of promoting the values of education and culture of human rights becomes evident, requiring the instilling values of tolerance, respect for others, and their cultural rights, which represent as an integral part of individual and collective human rights and public freedoms.
From this perspective, the importance of spreading values of education, and the culture of human rights becomes evident. It underscores our need to be immersed in values of tolerance, respect for others, and the recognition of their cultural rights, which are an integral part of both 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 interact with other human beings culture wise and acculturation.
Speech of HE Sahar Ghanem
Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the Netherlands
Thank you so much ... I would like first to apologize for the last-minute change that happened. I hope that it does not 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 Saud Albabtain, chairman of the Abdulaziz Saud 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 eminent 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 in 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.
Speech of HE Peter Maurer
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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 does not 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 framework 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 framework 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 am 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 are discussing today. Out of those 17000 people in sixteen 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 two hundred 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.
Speech of HE 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 am president. I am 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 sixteen 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 sixty-nine 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 ten thousand 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 five thousand 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 equipment 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 five 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 crossfire. More than 250 schools have been destroyed and more than 2500 have been damaged. Currently, twenty-three 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.
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.”
Speech of HE Leoluca Orlando
Mayor of Palermo, Italy
I wish just to say thanks to Abdulaziz Saud 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 do not 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 do not 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 am saying!
I am 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 do not renounce to our opinions. We do not 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 am sorry for Frankfurt! I am 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.