The Security Council deplored on 24 March the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, religious sites and artefacts, and the smuggling of cultural property by terrorist groups during armed conflict, affirming that such attacks might constitute a war crime and must be brought to justice.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2347 (2017), the 15-member Council recalled its condemnation of any engagement in trade involving Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Nusrah Front, and all other individuals or groups associated with Al-Qaida. It reiterated that such engagement could constitute financial support for entities designated by the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.
The Council stressed that Member States had the primary responsibility to protect their cultural heritage, and that efforts must comply with the United Nations Charter and respect the principle of sovereignty. It encouraged Member States to take preventive steps through documentation and consolidation of their nationally owned cultural property in a network of “safe havens”.
Furthermore, the Council welcomed actions by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to preserve cultural heritage in peril and to protect and promote cultural pluralism, encouraging Member States to support them. Taking note of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund and the international fund to protect endangered cultural heritage in armed conflicts established in December, the Council also encouraged Member States to provide funds to support preventive and emergency operations.
Briefing members after the text’s adoption, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said the destruction of cultural heritage was a war crime and tactic of war, and that defending that heritage was a security imperative. From Palmyra to the Shrine of Mosul, cultural heritage sites were symbols of unity, bearing witness to the dialogue of cultures that had always existed, she said, adding: “Violent extremists know this, and that is why they seek to destroy it.”