Mr. President

Switzerland thanks the United Arab Emirates, France, Cyprus and Italy for organizing this meeting. 

That all peoples are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage, and concerned that this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time.

All peoples are united by common bonds, their cultures are pieced together in a shared heritage, but this delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time. The preamble of the Rome Statute reminds us of this. The cultural heritage is the expression of our humanity and of our ability to live together. It must be protected, in all its forms, also by those who are opposed in war.

Security Council resolution 2347 (2017) condemns the illegal destruction of cultural heritage and thus establishes the link with peace and security. Attacks on cultural heritage may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which grants specific protection to cultural property, but also of human rights. Switzerland stresses the importance of respecting international law. We would like to mention the important role played by the International Criminal Court which, under the Rome Statute, has jurisdiction over crimes committed against or to the detriment of cultural heritage.

UNESCO and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) are doing essential work for heritage and its protection. We support their efforts. UNESCO's initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” and its commitment in Beirut and Ukraine are just the latest examples. Switzerland is convinced that UNESCO has an important role to play as coordinator and guarantor of the fundamental principles that guide cultural conventions. Switzerland calls on states to ratify all UNESCO cultural conventions, including the 1954 Hague Convention and its protocols. Switzerland also supports the Geneva-based International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas – (ALIPH) which is agile and responsive.

Switzerland has been committed for many years: It has adopted a strategy for the protection of cultural heritage in danger. It supports the safeguarding and reconstruction of heritage, as is the case in Yemen, Afghanistan, Mali and Ukraine. Switzerland was the first country to introduce legislation that allowed for the reception of endangered foreign cultural property by offering a safe haven.

Cultural resources can strengthen the resilience of populations in conflict situations. The rehabilitation of cultural sites, the repatriation of property and the revitalization of cultural practices contribute to the preservation of collective memory and social reconciliation.

Mr. President

In armed conflicts, the focus is on security and stability. But it is essential to integrate heritage into peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction and climate action programs. Culture cannot wait. Because heritage, the anchor for our identities, our values and our hopes, is rebuilt with even more effort than bridges, roads and pipelines.

Thank you.