Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach, to the exhibit organized by the Russian mission on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the Roerich Pact (Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments), today, in New York:
The Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments is 80 years old, but its message and goals have not aged a single day.
The Roerich Pact paved the way for an international framework to protect cultural property — in times of peace or times of war.
This framework includes the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols: the 1972 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which classifies deliberate attacks against historical monuments and buildings dedicated to education, art and sciences as war crimes in both international and domestic armed conflict.
The anniversary of the Roerich Pact is important because right now, across the world, we see cultural heritage and diversity being deliberately targeted and destroyed.
Violent extremists are carrying out these outrageous acts as a weapon of war and intimidation to divide and demoralize societies. Museums have been ransacked, statues and sculptures destroyed, books burned, girls prevented from going to school, and communities terrorized.
Extremists are targeting schools, journalists, cultural sites and museums as part of their campaign against freedom of thought and cultural diversity.
I repeat my condemnation of these heinous activities and urge international action to stop them.
This exhibit should inspire all visitors to reaffirm our commitment to protect cultural heritage as the commonwealth of all humanity. As we honour this landmark pact, let us join forces to end divisions and foster mutual respect.