2 July 2012

Regional Committee Codemns Destruction of Cultural Monuments in Mali

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Niamey-Niger — Regional culture experts have condemned the destruction of three cultural monuments in the north of Mali by fundamentalists and urged the international community, particularly UNESCO and other international organizations, to take urgent measures to safeguard the country's cultural heritage.

The ECOWAS Technical Committee of Cultural Experts (TCCE), which ended a four- day meeting in Niamey, Niger Republic, urged the separatists occupying the north of the country to respect and ensure the preservation, integrity and security of persons and the cultural heritage under occupation, namely Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal The three monuments, sacred tombs of a 15th century shrine of Muslim saints which are part of a UNESCO world heritage site, were destroyed on Friday by Islamic militants who are against the veneration of such shrines by Muslims.

This was one of the outcomes of the meeting of the committee held from 25th to 28th June 2012 and chaired by Mr.Calixte B. Angama of Cote d'Ivoire and which also considered the reports of the meetings of an ad-hoc committee and the Regional Copyright Observatory (RCO) held in April 2012. Mr. Angama used the opportunity to advocate for the ECOWAS Commission to improve human and financial resources in the Directorate of Education, Culture, Science and Technology in order to efficiently implement and execute regional cultural programmes.

The meetings adopted several recommendations which were adopted by the experts, one of which urged Member States to carry out a study on the contributions of culture to their economies and underscored the need for ECOWAS to collaborate with UNESCO's Institute of statistics as recommended by regional ministers. The experts also stressed the need for a training workshop for staff responsible for generating cultural statistics, adoption of security measures to complement the Community hologram in the fight against piracy, and called for the modernization of laws for copyright protection while countries without such laws should be assisted to develop them.

In addition, they reviewed the status of the implementation of the NEPAD - Culture Action Plan, designed to ensure an integrated regional cultural area for the promotion, enhancement and revitalizing of cultural cooperation, creativity, and regional integration among Community members. Following presentations on the Regional Cultural Events Calendar and website, the Committee recommended that 28th May every year (ECOWAS Day) should be included on the Cultural Events Calendar for the celebration of Culture and Copyright Day in the region.

The meeting also featured presentations highlighting guidelines, strategies and the way forward on the linkage between culture and education in the region. While closing the meeting, Niger's Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture reiterated the necessity for the ECOWAS Commission to refocus the cultural action on development and to make concrete proposals to the 6th Conference of Ministers of Culture to be held in Niamey in 2013. He commended the pertinent proposals and recommendations by the meeting, including the organization of Community's Cultural Festival and promotion of common African lingua franca.

The TCCE comprises cultural experts from ECOWAS Member States and the ECOWAS Commission, as well as other cultural stakeholders and experts in private organizations and civil societies.

The Committee's mandate includes validating the Regional Culture Agenda, evaluating and updating the Action Plan; and developing new programmes of activities as well as submitting relevant recommendations for consideration by the Conference of Ministers of Culture, among others.

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