A new momentum in the protection of Malian cultural heritage

Bamako, 31st October 2017 - As part of the implementation of the second phase of the Program for the Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage and Safeguarding of Ancient Manuscripts in Mali, 10 national trainers and 14 trainers from MINUSMA’s peacekeeping forces were trained on heritage protection, at the Peacekeeping School, from 25 to 27 October. Facing the intentional destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural property, persistent threats to international peace and security, this training aims to develop and strengthen the prevention and security of sites.

Mrs N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo, Minister of Culture of Mali, chaired the opening ceremony. Mr. Hervé Huot-Marchand, Head of the UNESCO Office in Bamako, Mrs. Françoise Gianviti, Representative of the French Ambassador to Mali, Mr. Moulaye Coulibaly, National Director of Cultural Heritage, Mrs. Alonso Cano Guiomar, Head of Culture Sector at UNESCO Dakar, Mrs. Elsa Urtizverea, UNESCO Headquarters Representative, many experts, national participants and MINUSMA peacekeepers were present at her side.

In her speech, Mrs N'Diaye thanked UNESCO for the implementation of the Rehabilitation Program, which contributed to the safeguarding and protection of cultural property, severely damaged since March 2012 by the political, institutional and security crisis in the three northern regions of the country and Mopti.

Based on the successful experience of training MINUSMA staff, the Minister expressed the wish that "this new training of trainers program for the Defense and Security Forces and civilian personnel, far from being a panacea, will be a basic national and international tool for all training activities in the protection of cultural heritage in times of conflict'.

Mr. Huot-Marchand, for his part, deplored the intentional destruction of cultural property by the belligerents because of its very nature. "Symbols of the peoples who created them and their permanence in time, these works and buildings are the incarnation of the enemy to be annihilated. Not content with destroying man, one must also destroy the traces of what he has been, so that nothing remains of the adversary, neither his carnal envelope, nor his cultural aura, nor his spiritual existence. "

Mr. Huot-Marchand recalled that, after the Second World War, the nations merged culture, globalization and humanity, declaring themselves "convinced that the attacks on cultural property, regardless of the peoples to which they belong, constitute attacks on the cultural heritage of all humanity, given that each community and its people contributes to world culture.”

During the three days of the workshop, the participants took part in different sessions based on thematic presentations, on identification, the different institutional frameworks, the importance of the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, the presentation of two conceptualized and improved modules on heritage protection, the knowledge of Mali and its cultural diversity. There were also simulation exercises at the National Museum of Mali on the protection of heritage in times of conflict by the defense and security forces and a visit to the center for the conservation and enhancement of ancient manuscripts of the NGO SAVAMA-DCI at the end the series of presentations.

Finally, concrete proposals were made in the form of recommendations for the implementation of the training program of defense and security forces for the protection of heritage and the securing of heritage institutions (Museums, libraries ...).

Thus, the desire to integrate modules on knowledge and heritage protection in the training schools’ curricula of armed defense forces and security forces or the establishment of a joint committee between different partners involved (MINUSMA, UNESCO, the Ministry of Culture and Ministries in charge of Defense and Security) to finalize a file with the goals for each site.

"These three days of training have allowed us to better understand the importance of protecting and preserving cultural heritage. We enjoyed the simulation exercises and the visit to the Old Manuscripts Conservation and Valorization Center, which is a first for many of us. This training of trainers is important because it will allow us to relay to our units," said Oumar Diop, on behalf of the participants.

It is important to note that since October 2013, UNESCO provides for all new staff arriving at MINUSMA, as part of the induction course, a one-hour per week training, thirty minutes of which are devoted to the protection of heritage and thirty minutes on raising Malian society awareness. Out of 14046 deployed personnel, more than 4000 civilians, police or military benefited from this training.

This training is part of the second phase of the UNESCO Rehabilitation Program, which was designed to respond to the changing current context in Mali. It was developed and organized with the support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation to strengthen the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two (1954 & 1999) Protocols.

Links for photos:

To listen to the debate, on Radio Mikado FM, between security forces (Malians and MINUSMA, the DNPC and UNESCO experts) on the impact of training, click here: