The three day Symposium gathered representatives of governments, internationally renowned experts, research institutes and non-governmental institutions from both developed and post-conflict/developing countries, in order to facilitate a broad and inclusive discussion on how cultural heritage can be reflected in integrated modernization processes that achieve the overall goal of sustainable development. Some 200 participants attended the three day Symposium.
The event was opened by Mr. Antimo Cesaro, Undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage & Activities & Tourism (MiBACT), who noted that the cultural heritage in Afghanistan is rich, but the heritage has been subject to loss and deliberate destruction during the last three decades of conflict in the country. Mr. Cesaro highlighted the long history of the close relationship between Italy and Afghanistan, and noted the commitment to strengthen the partnership amongst Italy, Afghanistan and UNESCO for the protection of cultural heritage within development initiatives.
As a participant in the opening speeches, Mr. Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, Chief Advisor of Infrastructure and Technology to the President of Afghanistan said, “Protection and promotion of the cultural and archaeological richness of Afghanistan implicitly celebrates the collective sovereignty of a nation, owned by the people. Saving historical artefacts and properties will help empower Afghans and foster a sense of shared responsibility of historical and cultural legacy. This Conference and the ongoing UNESCO Project encourage a specific focus on raising the capacity of national officials in heritage management and raising local and national stakeholders’ awareness of the importance of the cultural and natural resources of the country for its sustainable development”.
Ms. Patricia McPhillips, Director and Representative at the UNESCO office in Kabul, highlighted that culture is not against modernization. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recommends a model of development where heritage preservation is well integrated within new initiatives. Mr. Michael Stanley, Global Lead of Extractives at the World Bank Group, emphasised the insufficient attention paid to cultural and heritage policies in government strategies, especially in post-conflict and developing countries, noting that heritage protection and development initiatives are compatible and present an opportunity for balanced approaches to development.
The Symposium discussed challenges affecting heritage, especially where effects of massive urbanization, uncontrolled and unsustainable development processes, illicit trafficking of antiquities and climate change continue to threaten cultural heritage preservation. While sharing case studies of all regions including Mes Aynak in Afghanistan, Naples in Italy, Dili in East Timor, Mozambique, Mexico and many more, the Symposium participants underscored the importance of long-term and sustained investment to create tools and financial conditions for the implementation of heritage initiatives. Participants emphasized the urgent need to promote programmes which ensure the safeguarding of heritage properties be an integral part of economic and development initiatives.
A recommendation was adopted unanimously by the Symposium participants, emphasising the need to promote programmes for the safeguarding of heritage properties while the improving of living conditions and to the economic growth of a country for sustainable development.