UNESCO unites Lebanese and international partners to safeguard Beirut’s cultural heritage and cultural life

UNESCO convened Lebanese stakeholders and international partners active in the safeguarding of culture for the second UNESCO Coordination Meeting for Emergency Response on Culture in Beirut. Participants included Dr Sarkis Khoury, Director-General of Antiquities (Lebanon), representatives and experts from the city of Beirut, universities, NGOs and civil society organizations, as well as international partners – ALIPH, ARC-WH, Blue Shield, ICCROM, ICOM, ICOMOS, IFLA, and WMF.

The meeting represented an opportunity to share the latest information on interventions being undertaken on the ground, as well as priority needs identified by the different stakeholders. Following the tragic explosions on 4 August, the Directorate General of Antiquities has begun urgent stabilization work on 16 historic buildings that have been severely affected. Another 40 buildings still need urgent interventions, while the finalization of damage assessments and the structural stabilization of all concerned heritage buildings are still needed.Participants noted that legal arrangements need to be fully put in place to support the action on the ground. Many of the participants stressed the impact of the explosions on the local creative economy; museums, galleries, libraries, and the work of artists, artisans, and intangible heritage bearers were also affected to various degrees, and also need the support of the international community.

UNESCO’s international partners shared the immediate response actions that they have started to undertake in cooperation with local partners, including damage assessments of historic buildings, museums and libraries, provision of technical expertise, training, and financial assistance. Many participants expressed the need to develop guidelines for conservation and rehabilitation works in the affected area, establish a database on cultural and creative industries and provide assistance to museums, galleries, artists and artisans, which were already suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and the social and economic crisis. Participants agreed that UNESCO’s coordination, both at national and international levels, will be key for the successful implementation of response and recovery actions, which should embrace the overall cultural ecosystem.

“UNESCO is committed to working alongside the Lebanese people and our international partners to achieve our common objective which is to support the reconstruction and recovery of Beirut’s cultural heritage and cultural life”, said Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO.

In response to the priority needs identified by Lebanese experts on the ground, UNESCO has launched the International Action Plan for Culture, which consists of three axes:

Immediate operational interventions for the stabilization and safeguarding of the historic urban fabric and heritage sites of Beirut;
Support to artists, cultural professionals and communities in order to revive the cultural life and creative economy of Beirut; and
Mid-term initiatives to support the sustainable reconstruction and recovery of Beirut through culture.
As part of this effort, UNESCO has launched an international fundraising appeal, Li Beirut, to support the rehabilitation of Beirut’s schools, historic buildings, museums, galleries, and creative economy.

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