UNESCO moving to ensure Haitian artefacts are protected post-quake

Haitian Justice Palace wrecked by quake

29 January 2010 – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has issued a call to protect Haitian artefacts in the wake of the massive earthquake in a bid to prevent pillaging from the rubble of the Caribbean nation’s numerous landmarks, including the Presidential Palace.

“This heritage is an invaluable source of identity and pride for the people [of Haiti] and will be essential to the success of their national reconstruction,” the agency’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, stressed.

She has asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mobilize the UN – including the world body’s peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSTAH – to do its utmost to secure sites containing Haiti’s artefacts, especially its art collections in the Cathedral in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in museums and galleries.

Ms. Bokova also requested that Mr. Ban consider recommending that the Security Council adopt a resolution to temporarily ban the trade and transfer of Haitian cultural property with the assistance of the global police organization Interpol and other organizations.

Art and museum professionals worldwide must support such a ban, she underscored. “It is particularly important to verify the origin of cultural property that might be imported, exported and/or offered for sale, especially on the Internet.”

The National History Park, a World Heritage site, is in Haiti’s north and is reportedly undamaged after the 7.0 magnitude quake, which struck the nation on 12 January. It contains the Palace of Sans Souci and the Citadel, which date from the beginning of the 19th century and serve as universal symbols of liberty, being the first monuments to be constructed by black slaves who had gained their freedom.

However, the edifices in the town of Jacmel, a French colonial town in southern Haiti founded in the late 17th century, are said to have collapsed. Those edifices had been on UNESCO’s “tentative” list for inscription on the World Heritage List.

The agency has already helped to salvage the rich historical archives of George Corvington, the renowned Haitian historian, and is also contributing to save whatever panels or significant fragments remain of the painted murals that adorned the Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Port-au-Prince.


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