Committee: Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian Committee (General Assembly)

Topic: Protection of Cultural Sites in Syria and the Middle East

Country: The Republic of Maldives

School: Verona Area High School

Delegates: Mr. Jacques Frank-Loron and Mr. Christopher Queoff

White Paper

            In accordance with 1972 the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and National Heritage, the 2000 United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Zone of Peace in the South Atlantic, the Republic of Maldives stands firm against all forms of degradation to world cultural heritage sites. The convention listed above builds upon the concept of environmental conservation to provide a route to cultural conservation. This convention was the start of the World Heritage Site as the international community knows it today. The second convention provides protection against the smuggling of persons, small arms and light weapons, and other criminal actions. Trafficking in cultural objects falls under this convention. In the text outlining the Zone of Peace in the South Atlantic, there is a promise to the mutual defense of the cultural property of other nations within the zone. The Maldives emphasizes the continued need for this zone today. The Maldives also maintains a bilateral agreement with Egypt in the interest of ceasing illicit trade of cultural relics within their states.

Too often throughout the world’s history, the culture of weak states falls prey to the evils of nonstate actors and imperialist policies. These states largely reside within the Middle East. As a fellow Islamic state, the Maldives is firmly dedicated to internationally promoting and defending true Islamic values of respect and tolerance. In order to do this, the Maldives encourages all nations to make commitments towards the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria and the Middle East. The Maldives is deeply saddened by how the Syrian Civil War has touched all of the sites of cultural heritage within Syria and wishes to use Syria as an example for the need of greater cultural protection. These sites are crucial anchors to a united past. Isis and other similar non-state actors who destroy these cultural sites tear at the fabric of society. Without shared cultural heritage, repairing the immense rift that the Syrian Civil War has caused will be almost impossible.

Comprehensive efforts must be made by governments within the Middle East and international bodies such as UNESCO to protect the cultural sites within Syria. All six of the sites in Syria are currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Maldives commends Italy’s proposal to utilize United Nations Peacekeeping forces to aid in the protection of these sites; however it is critical that the coalition to protect the cultural sites within Syria utilizes the local population in the defense of their landmarks. Only by cooperation with international, national, and local governments will these sacred sites be protected. The Maldives believes that in order to help better protect what our world could lose, UNESCO should continue to develop a list of cultural relics that may have been lost in the destruction. When combined with the International Council of Museums’ Red List, consumers of rare cultural items will know what not to purchase for their collections. The Maldives also believes in developing multinational agreements protecting the countries involved from illicit trade in cultural objects. If more countries hold themselves responsible, terrorist groups such as ISIS would cease to view selling these objects as a viable route to procuring funding. The Republic of Maldives urgently encourages this body to draft a resolution protecting the cultural sites in Syria and reminds the body of the importance of providing an archetype for further safekeeping of our heritage.