UN cultural agency UNESCO will gather in Istanbul on Sunday to review candidates to join its prestigious World Heritage List, ranging from 350-million-year old fossils to works by Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
After the June 28 attack on Istanbul’s airport that claimed 45 lives, security has been stepped up for the 11-day World Heritage Committee meeting – the panel’s 40th.
Though no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Ankara has pointed the finger of blame at the Islamic State group, which has wreaked considerable damage on World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra and the citadel of Aleppo, both in Syria.
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“What happened in Syria and Iraq as well as in Mali and Afghanistan were so shocking that the process of preparing UNESCO’s lists has become of great political importance,” said the body’s director general, Irina Bokova.
Earlier this year IS blew up the ancient Nabu temple in Iraq. In 2012 a Malian jihadist blew up nine mausoleums and part of Timbuktu’s famous Sidi Yahia mosque. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the Taliban destroyed the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001.
Interest in threats to heritage has “grown tremendously in recent years because of these conflicts” but also new threats linked to climate change or urbanisation, she told reporters.
“Globalisation and connectivity have also seen the rise of a new spirit, a wish to present oneself to the world through one’s culture,” Bukova said. “Inscription on the World Heritage list is glorious, countries are proud.”
This year 29 dossiers are being considered by the World Heritage Committee, made up of 21 countries serving six-year terms.
A dossier for the work of architect Le Corbusier, after failed attempts in 2009 and 2011, has been revamped and comes with high marks from a committee of experts who evaluate the submissions.
It lists 17 sites across seven countries – France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Argentina, Japan and India – to show the global reach of the work of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, known as Le Corbusier.
The creations show the contributions of Le Corbusier to the Modern Movement that emerged after World War I with an emphasis on functionality, bold lines and new materials such as concrete, iron and glass.