Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage, Abu Dhabi (2-3 December 2016)


The President of the French Republic traveled to Abu Dhabi on 2-3 December for the Conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage which he closed along with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

This conference is the result of a joint French-United Arab Emirates initiative which has been in preparation for over three years. It is the cultural aspect of the fight already being waged against terrorism militarily and politically.

The President of the French Republic has thus made safeguarding heritage one of the main themes of French cultural diplomacy since February 2013, when he visited Mali with the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova.

That visit provided an opportunity to begin the reconstruction and restoration process of the Timbuktu mausoleums, but also to begin international discussions on how to:

  • better safeguard cultural property threatened by conflict;
  • preserve the cultural diversity endangered by terrorist fanaticism;

Following his visit to the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities in the Louvre on 18 March 2015, the day on which the Bardo Museum in Tunisia was attacked, the President assigned Jean-Luc Martinez a fact-finding mission. He retained the main guidelines during the UNESCO General Conference on 17 November 2015, just four days after the 13 November attacks.

The Abu Dhabi conference, the principle of which was presented at the Ise-Shima G7 Summit in Japan last May, was prepared in conjunction with the personal representatives of both Heads of State, Jack Lang, President of the Institut du monde arabe (Arab World Institute), and Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. This conference marks both the culmination, so that concrete commitments can be made, and the starting point of a process which will continue into the first half of 2017, with the adoption of a framework resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

The conference will help to put in place new tools to safeguard heritage under threat from terrorism and armed conflict, with: a political statement which commits the 40 participating States to create an international fund open to public and private contributions and an international network of safe havens for endangered cultural property.

The Crown Prince of the UAE worked personally to ensure a high level of representation from the Arab States at the conference on safeguarding heritage, at a time when it is being targeted all over the region by terrorists and fundamentalists. He wanted to ensure that this conference coincide with the UAE National Day.

This event demonstrates the importance of cultural events to the French-UAE relationship. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the strongest symbol of this. The President of the Republic will visit the building, along with architect Jean Nouvel. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first universal museum in the Arab World which will be open to the public in the months ahead. This will be a show of strength in both countries in the fight against extremism and obscurantism, at a time of multiple crises in the Middle East and increased identitarian closure in Western societies.

The President will also visit French troops in the UAE and will commend them on their work which directly contributes to the security of the people of France. He will also hold a meeting with the Crown Prince on the French-UAE defence partnership, which is very close as shown by the “Gulf 2016” exercise which took place throughout November and mobilized 1,400 French soldiers, hundreds of armoured vehicles, about 20 aircraft and a first-rate frigate.

Finally, the President will meet the French community in Abu Dhabi, one of the largest in the Arab World with over 25,000 people.

See also:

  • "Heritage, in all its diversity, is a source of collective wealth that encourages dialogue. It is a vehicle for closer relations, tolerance, freedom, and respect. Its destruction is a threat to peace, as is the illicit trafficking of cultural property that often emerges in times of crisis. " Read the Abu Dhabi Declaration (3 December 2016)