Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shifting policy on cultural property

Is the protection and possession of cultural property doomed to contention, or is cultural property policy evolving? Mali and Syria have certainly proven clear examples of threats to cultural property in conflict. Religious monuments are targeted in political violence, antiquities are looted and trafficked for financial gain, and cultural heritage in general suffers as collateral damage of armed conflict. Meanwhile nations, such as Nigeria and Turkey, continue claims for repatriation of cultural patrimony against foreign resistance. Over the past week, however, a couple of stories suggest political shifts in favor of less contentious treatment of cultural property.
Nigeria-hosts-foreign-museums-2Al-Qaida leadership may realize the political advantage of preserving religious monuments despite perceived violations of Shariah. A letter recovered in Timbuktu, Mali, provides evidence that a senior commander of al-Qaida’s branch in Africa considers the strategic value of local cultural heritage when taking control of a city or region. “The letter also shows a sharp division within al-Qaida’s Africa chapter over how quickly and how strictly to apply Islamic law, with its senior commander expressing dismay over the whipping of women and the destruction of Timbuktu’s ancient monuments.”
“Source nations” may also realize the need for adjusting political strategy in effective pursuit of repatriation. The success of Turkey’s assertive tactics notwithstanding, Nigeria has demonstrated an interest in pursuing a more diplomatic approach. In fact, for the third consecutive year, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) will host representatives of foreign museums that hold looted objects that Nigeria considers cultural patrimony. While the previous similar meetings were held abroad, in Austria and Germany, the upcoming event is planned for Benin.
Both cases: 1) a more measured approach to treatment of cultural property in religious conflict and 2) diplomatic engagement in the interest of repatriation indicate increasingly sophisticated cultural property policy that integrates with foreign and security policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment