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Italy’s National Statement at the Plenary Debate of the 199th session of the Executive Board, delivered by H.E. Ambassador Vincenza Lomonaco

Mister President of the Executive Board,
Mister President of the General Conference,
Madam Director-General,
Dear colleagues and Members of the Executive Board,
Italy fully subscribes to the speech that will be delivered by the Representative of the European Union.

The numerous challenges that confront us have already been mentioned during this debate, so I won’t repeat them. The issue we have been dealing with so often since last year is unfortunately still at the top of our agenda :  the safeguarding of cultural heritage in conflict zones and the fight against illicit trafficking are still a high priority that requires the international community and UNESCO’s utmost attention.

The fate of Palmira, which is the symbol of the unity and history of a people, is highly representative in this regard. The archeological site has suffered severe devastation and we thank the DG for the update provided during the information meeting of April the 4th.
Unfortunately many other sites – in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and so on – require emergency interventions. Such urgent actions must not only focus on safeguarding tangible and intangible heritage, but also on education and training programs, which represent a key tool to contrast extremism in the long run.

These strategical issues lie at the heart of the 2030 sustainable development goals, which are conceived as an interconnected whole where each goal helps achieving the others.

It’s in a such a global perspective that my Country believes that safeguarding heritage at risk is a top priority. As our Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently said, Italy is ready to work with UNESCO to tackle the challenge of protecting cultural heritage against terrorism, and to fight against illicit trafficking. This is the meaning of the MoU which was signed last February 16 with UNESCO in order to offer a concrete contribution to the Organization’s work. Italy is fully engaged in this field and we hope to continue developing this collaboration at all levels – also at the UN Security Council, where we are candidate for election and we hope we may count on your support.
Other countries have expressed their willingness to play an active role and to engage with UNESCO, each with its own expertise, resources and means. We believe that an open dialogue among Member States is key to exchange good practices and harmonize our efforts in order to help UNESCO implement Resolution 38C/48. In this regard, we salute the creation of the Group of Friends “UniteForHeritage”.

The meeting that was held last April also focused our attention on the serious issue of young unschooled Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The data reported by the DG were appallingly clear.

My Country counts among those who engage every day to rescue and host people fleeing from war and despair. On a bilateral basis, the Italian cooperation is strongly focused on basic education for young refugees. Programs are ongoing in Libya and Jordan with the purpose of facilitating access to education to more than 30 000 young Syrians through the reconstruction of school premises.

An important recognition of my Country’s engagement is represented by the 2016 international Simone de Beauvoir  Prize which was awarded last January to the Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, at the DG’s presence.
Mister President, Italy wishes to commend the DG and UNESCO for all the efforts made toward dialogue, peace and respect among cultures.
To quote philosopher Levinas: “peace is the unity of pluralism”. UNESCO is the place where we can and must all work together to build such a constructive pluralism.