UNESCO and Yemen’s Minister of Culture Discuss Means to Reinforce Cultural Heritage Preservation in Yemen

On 16 July, UNESCO met with Yemen’s Minister of Culture, Marwan Dammaj, in Cairo to explore new areas of cooperation for the protection of Yemen’s cultural heritage. Among priorities issues for the Government of Yemen, the Minister of Culture requested emergency assistance from UNESCO to combat illicit trafficking of Yemeni archaeological artifacts and manuscripts. The Government seeks UNESCO’s support in establishing and training a new interdisciplinary unit within the Ministry of Culture, with legal expertise and coordination capacities to track violations and looting, process evidence-based restitution processes, in coordination with relevant authorities such as INTERPOL and UNESCO.

The Minister further expressed a request to engage with UNESCO on a range of initiatives for the valorization and protection of Yemen’s intangible cultural heritage. This would include the launch of preliminary surveys on the Dân of Hadramawt traditional music, with a view of its possible future registration on the Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. A tailored capacity-building programme on the preventive conservation of museum collections was also discussed as a follow-up to past successful experiences held in Amman in July 2019 and which benefitted to 9 museum professionals from Aden, Ibb, Lahij, Sanaa, Taiz, and Zabid.

The meeting also allowed for a discussion of progress made under the EU-funded project “Cash for Work: Improving livelihood opportunities of urban youth in Yemen”. UNESCO shared main findings from the damage assessments conducted in partnership with the Social Fund for Development (SFD), as well as immediate rehabilitation interventions that are foreseen in three UNESCO World Heritage cities (Sana’a, Shibam, Zabid) and Aden. Ms. Anna Paolini, Director of UNESCO Regional Office for the Arab Gulf States and States and Yemen emphasized the joint commitment of UNESCO and the European Union to preserve cultural heritage in times of conflict, thus recognizing its powerful contribution to peacebuilding, dialogue, and economic resilience. The Minister of Culture congratulated the UNESCO-EU project for responding to the urgency of cultural preservation needs in Yemen and pledged the active support of the Government of Yemen. The Minister finally highlighted the importance to invest in the upgrading and repairs of museums such as the National Museum in Aden with a view to ensure its outreach to youth and local communities.