UNESCO Raises $75.5 Million to Defend Cultural Heritage in War Zones

The United States is not among the countries who are donating.

A Russian Mil Mi-24 'Hind' attack helicopter flying above the damaged site of the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria. Syrian troops backed by Russian jets completed the recapture of the historic city of Palmyra from Islamic State (IS) group fighters on March 2, 2017, the Kremlin and the army said. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images.

Yesterday, at a conference held at the Louvre Museum in Paris hosted by Francois Hollande, the French president announced that a total of $75.5 million (€70 million) has been pledged, by seven countries and an American philanthropist, for a UNESCO-backed fund to protect cultural heritage sites all over the world from war and terrorism.

The Geneva-based International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH), which oversees the UNESCO initiative, is hoping to raise a total of $100 million by 2019.

France pledged $30 million to the fund, Saudi Arabia is giving $20 million, and UAE, which is a co-host, has promised $15 million. Other supporting countries include Kuwait ($5 million), Luxembourg ($3 million), and Morocco ($1.5 million). Switzerland has promised logistical support valued at $8 million.

Notably absent is the United States. American philanthropist Tom Kaplan promised $1 million.

“At Bamiyan, Mosul, Palmyra, Timbuktu, and elsewhere, fanatics have engaged in trafficking, looting, and the destruction of cultural heritage, adding to the persecution of populations,” said Hollande according to a report by Agence France Press.

More funds and in-kind support is expected from countries including Britain, China, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and South Korea. Forty countries pledged their support at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Further, a network of safe havens was created for endangered artworks, allowing at-risk property to be stored abroad if needed, though this measure is regarded as a last resort.

In his speech yesterday, Hollande emphasized that steps would be taken to ensure that sovereignty principles are respected.

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