Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s video message to the High-level International Conference on the Destruction of Heritage and Cultural Diversity in Iraq and Syria, in Paris on 3 December:
Excellencies, honourable colleague Mr. Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, honourable colleague Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, Special Representative for Iraq, ladies and gentlemen,
This conference marks a new stage in our efforts to protect the precious cultural heritage and diversity of Iraq and Syria from the devastating impacts of conflict.
As the people of these countries continue to endure incalculable human suffering and loss, a rich legacy is being destroyed, sold off or suffering irreversible damage.
We are witnessing the deliberate targeting of schools, houses of worship and other cherished sites, as well as the persecution of religious minorities. These violations only fuel the cycles of sectarian vengeance and violence.
The protection of cultural heritage is a political and security imperative. It should be a central component of peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts, and of humanitarian and development policies.
I thank all those involved in today’s conference for your commitment to this essential work. The United Nations, including UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], will continue to be your close partner.
Merci. Thank you.