UNESCO urged to move planned conference to Russia – ARTnews.com


UNESCO, a United Nations agency responsible for overseeing a series of cultural heritage sites around the world, is facing pressure from European groups to move a planned meeting to Kazan, Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine by country. Hosted by the Russian Federation, the 45 edition of the committee meeting is scheduled for June 19-30.

Cultural heritage group Europa Nostra and UK Culture Minister Nadine Dorries were among those who said UNESCO should not proceed with its World Heritage committee in the town as planned.

The Russian Federation has offered to host this year’s conference in July 2021, during the 44th edition of the committee’s summit. A UNESCO spokesperson said the venue for the 45th session can be changed by member states of the World Heritage Committee, which is made up of 21 member states elected from 194 countries.

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In 2019, Russia was elected to host the meeting for a period of four years. A UNESCO spokesperson told the art diary that there are no plans in place yet to move the Kazan session.

A UNESCO representative did not immediately respond to ART news request for additional comment.

The Auschwitz Memorial, which oversees the preservation of a Nazi concentration camp site in Poland, posted a statement on Twitter in early March condemning plans to hold the conference under the Russian presidency. To do so, according to the organization, is “a mockery of innocent Ukrainian victims”.

More than 30 scholars and professionals who deal with cultural heritage sent a letter to UNESCO in which they urged the group to change its plan for the World Heritage Committee meeting, calling it “unacceptable”.

In early March, as the conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces escalated, UNESCO expressed concern about threats to cultural heritage sites across Ukraine. UNESCO has since said that more than 50 such sites have suffered damage during the war so far.

UNESCO has asked the opinion of the heads of Ukrainian museums on the safeguarding of cultural property at risk. Among those he works with to track threats to cultural heritage in Ukraine is Artists at Risk, a global nonprofit that helps artists in conflict zones.

Kazan, the city where the World Heritage Committee meeting will be held, is currently experiencing an influx of Russian refugees into the city. Last week, it was reported that around 500 refugees from eastern Ukraine arrived in Russia’s southwestern province by train overnight amid Russian attacks that devastated Mariupol.

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