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UNESCO account to stop the destruction of the Bamyan Buddha's

UNESCO account to stop the blast of the Bamyan Buddha's

Published on 16 March 2011

Author(s): Rene Teijgeler

Type:  Account

For the first time the account is published here on how UNESCO tried to stop Omar Mulah from willengly destroying the Buddha's in the Bamyan valley

On March 2, 2011 UNESCO organized an international forum Towards Cultural Rapprochement and Tolerance on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Buddha statues in the Bamyan valley, Afghanistan. It was intended as a solemn tribute to this tragic destruction and an occasion to discuss appropriate remedial measures to safeguard the damaged Buddha niches for future generations. The forum was then followed by the 9th Expert Working Group Meeting for the Preservation and Safeguarding of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley.

The presence of the Afghan minister and deputy minister of Information and Culture and their staff made the event worthwhile, certainly during the discussions and exchange of views. The program showed a list of interesting speakers. Especially the afternoon session on the Doha Statement (2001) and the UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage (2003) was without a doubt surprising. Mr Mounir Bouchenaki, the former assistant director-general of Culture at UNESCO and presently the director-general of ICCROM, delivered his account on the actions UNESCO undertook once they heard of the planned destruction of the Buddha statues by the Taliban.

In the end the UNESCO mission to rescue the statues did not bring the desired result. However, the account clearly shows the way UNESCO can operate, how quickly they can act and what kind of people they can convince to take action. Indeed, UNESCO did all in their power to try and stop the blast of this important Buddhist heritage in Afghanistan.

Mr Bouchenaki’s account gives counterweight to the often-heard criticism that UNESCO is just one of these large international bodies where people make more than an average salary. In my opinion, the value of this report lies in the fact that it shows a side from UNESCO that perhaps little people ever see.

I am glad that Mr Bouchenaki allowed me to publish this account for the first time on the website of Culture in Development.

To read the report click on the picture below.


Mounir Bouchenaki, former assistant Director-General  of Culture at UNESCO

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