Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

The UAE has made great strides in the preservation of its rich heritage

The country's fourth term on the executive board at Unesco is a matter of honour

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development for the UAE at the Unesco meet in Paris, November 2019.
Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development for the UAE at the Unesco meet in Paris, November 2019.

The people of the UAE have long witnessed the country’s efforts to promote its heritage and dedicate spaces to the preservation of its rich Bedouin way of life. Facets of the nation’s culture have been documented in heritage villages in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Fujairah. They have been archived in the more than 45 museums across the Emirates and celebrated in annual festivals that go a long way in drawing crowds and keeping alive the country’s more intangible traditions: the performance arts of poetry, falconry, weaving – all of which fall under a prestigious, internationally-recognised list of intangible cultural heritage.

Sustaining a position in global rankings of organisations with international prestige requires a steadfastness of purpose and an efficacy of leadership that the UAE has repeatedly demonstrated it can provide

In the backdrop of such efforts being made to safeguard and preserve culture, it is only befitting that the UAE has pinned to its lapels another badge of global recognition by securing a fourth term on the executive board of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

It is an honour that the UAE will continue to serve on the executive board of Unesco, along with other member states until the year 2023. No doubt by this time the country would have even more effectively harnessed the powers of creativity, diplomacy and technology to meet its long term cultural goals and devised even more effective ways to preserve its heritage.

In Paris last week, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, led the UAE delegation to the 40th session of Unesco’s General Conference and spoke of how “the UAE’s appointment to the Unesco’s executive board reflects the wide acknowledgement of the country’s prominent efforts in advancing initiatives in the fields of culture, science and education”.

These words have a deeper significance when the context of the relationship is borne in mind. The UAE has a history with Unesco that is almost as old as the country. The UAE was founded in December 1971 and became a Unesco member soon after, on April 20, 1972. And in 2011, Al Ain became the first site in the UAE to be included on the Unesco World Heritage List, drawing visitors to sites in the Garden City that pointed towards human inhabitation in the desert since the Neolithic period.

Over the years, the UAE has participated in several Unesco programmes and donated funds towards significant ends. In fact, in 2018, the country was among the top 10 voluntary donors to Unesco. These are no small achievements. Sustaining a position in global rankings of organisations with international prestige requires a steadfastness of purpose and an efficacy of leadership that the UAE has repeatedly demonstrated it can provide.

This is also an occasion to remember the country’s commitment to diversity and collaboration and the emphasis it lays on rebuilding culture. It is in the spirit of philanthropy that the culture ministry is funding a partnership with Unesco worth $50.4 million (Dh185.1m) to rebuild devastated sites in Mosul, Iraq – sites of immeasurable value, such as the Al Nuri Mosque and its Al Hadba minaret, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi announced in 2014 that he had established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Nor is the rebuilding programme restricted to Muslim sites. The country’s dedication to religious and cultural diversity has led it to include in its rebuilding agenda two churches, a Yazidi temple and the central library of Mosul University.

And more remains to be done. Ms Al Kaabi said the UAE was celebrating the achievement but “more hard work awaits”. Both domestically and internationally, the UAE continues to build for the future, expressing its commitment to not rest on its laurels.

Updated: November 23, 2019 05:30 PM

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