A newly formed global coalition is seeking to safeguard significant cultural and natural sites from the fallout of violent conflict and/or deliberate destructive intent. The Unite for Heritage movement arises from the 39th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee, now wrapping up in Bonn, Germany.
“Heritage is under attack today,” UNESCO director general Irina Bokova said as the ten-day proceedings opened. “In Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, we see brutal and deliberate destruction of heritage on an unprecedented scale. This is a call to action.”
UNESCO member states endorsed the Bonn Declaration on World Heritage in condemnation of recent extremist assaults against Iraq’s cultural icons and landmarks, while the Unite for Heritage coalition takes on the broader task of mobilizing worldwide support for heritage properties. This includes outreach through the recently launched social media campaign, #Unite4Heritage, and coordination of international agencies to combat illicit trafficking in cultural artifacts.
Delegates also added 24 cultural sites, two natural sites and one mixed natural-cultural site to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. More than 1,030 sites in 163 nations have now been listed, including 17 in Canada.
This year’s designations cover nearly 2,300 years of human history from the third century before the common era (BCE) to mid-20th century. Of these, the youngest and most urban — boasting commercial real estate — are the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus Districts along with the modernist Chilehaus office building in Hamburg, Germany.
Notable infrastructure additions include: Mexico’s Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System, a 16th century network of springs, canals, distribution tanks and arcaded aqueduct bridges, including the highest single-level arcade ever built in an aqueduct; and Scotland’s Forth Bridge, the world’s longest multi-span cantilever bridge, completed in 1890 and still carrying passenger and freight trains.
Photo: Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District, Germany. Courtesy of UNESCO.