Since its establishment on April 18th, 1982 on the proposal of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the celebration of the International Day for Monuments and Sites is an opportunity to highlight the richness, diversity, and originality of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage in the Islamic world countries. The celebration is also an occasion for the general public to discover the richness and diversity that characterize world heritage and the archaeological sites whose features have been defined in all parts of the globe, highlighting the relentless efforts made, as part of international agreements and declarations related to the protection of cultural and natural heritage, in order to maintain, preserve and promote heritage.
In this context, it should be recalled that ICESCO today attaches great importance to preserving cultural heritage, raising awareness of its role, and alerting to the threats of vandalism against heritage during crises, on top of which is the current global health crisis. This was evident in several achievements and many reference documents, all of which pinpoint the need for urgent action and the establishment of a contract between public sectors, international and regional organizations, and civil society institutions to develop a joint roadmap to protect cultural heritage.
Since 2019, ICESCO has also deployed a strategy based on a more comprehensive and realistic vision for preserving cultural heritage in the Islamic world. To this end, it has provided the necessary means of action, foremost of which is the approval of the establishment of the Islamic World Heritage Center, the development of the work mechanisms, the expansion of the functions, and enhancement of the roles of the Islamic World Heritage Committee, especially about inscribing heritage sites on the Islamic World Heritage List. Moreover, ICESCO set up an observatory for heritage protection to monitor the situation of heritage in the Islamic world and threats thereto and formed the Heritage Projects Fund, which will help provide the necessary support to the parties in charge of heritage protection in the Member States.
The celebration of this day in 2021 comes in very exceptional circumstances in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced more than half of the world’s population to stay in their homes and caused the closure of most archaeological sites, historical monuments, and museums, which were previously open to visitors. ICESCO has introduced several comprehensive initiatives in the cultural field to provide alternatives to in-person programs. These include the “Distance Culture” initiative; the necessary support for damaged heritage sites and museums that have been affected by the closure since the beginning of the crisis in several Member States. Also, through its civilization project “Roads to the Future” and “ICESCO Creativity” programme, ICESCO has allocated several programmes and activities within a comprehensive and balanced vision for the future of the heritage of the Islamic world by 2030.
To implement the recommendation of the Islamic World Heritage Committee issued at its meeting on December 10th, 2020, that call for the adoption of an initiative to celebrate the Heritage Month in the Islamic World annually, during the period from April 18 (International Day for Monuments and Sites) to May 18 (International Museum Day), ICESCO intends to observe it this year under the slogan “United for Art and Heritage” and prepared an integrated project that features many international seminars and training courses over a whole month.
In light of these urgent and dangerous circumstances, ICESCO calls on the whole world and international and regional organizations to take measures to limit the negative repercussions of the pandemic and rationalize the promotion and management of the Islamic world heritage, by publicizing and maintaining it and harnessing the virtual display mechanisms and artificial intelligence to highlight its richness and diversity and raise public awareness of the importance of its preservation and incorporation in the desired sustainable development programmes.