Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UNESCO's Egyptian delegation: A New Role for UNESCO in Cultural Disasters?

The UNESCO delegation dispatched to Egypt at this particular point in the difficult transition to democracy has rubbed some archaeologists the wrong way, in large part since it comes at a very awkward time, given that the question of who is in charge of Egypt's antiquities is at the moment not clear. But more interesting from the viewpoint of a UNESCO-watcher perhaps is this tidbit from the story from Ahram Online:

El-Awadi told Ahram Online that Manhart offered to provide Egypt with technical experts, including on security measures. If funding is required due to the retreat of tourism, continued Manhart, in order to provide more security facilities, UNESCO could help find financial resources. has a slightly different take:

UNESCO will not offer crude financial help, but, according to Manhart, it can offer technical support, send security specialists, conduct a needs assessment, and define priorities.
What is interesting here is not just the dancing around the question of providing financial help (which is more or less to be expected, given UNESCO's generally ineffectual fundraising efforts for similar archaeological emergencies), but the double emphasis on sending security specialists and raising money specifically to provide  "more security facilities". So far as I know, that would be a new and extremely important role for UNESCO to assume. Let us hope "security specialists" doesn't mean site conservationists but experts on using guards, guns, barbed wire, walkie-talkies, and the like to lock down sites and museums.

No comments: