Protecting Cultural Property in Fiji

Let’s stay with news from the UNESCO Pacific Islands States…

A Training of Trainers (ToT) on the Integration of the Cultural Property Protection (CPP) and the Hague Convention took place in Suva, Fiji, from 12 to 14 November 2018. Organized jointly by UNESCO and the Department of Heritage and Arts, this ToT brought together some 50 senior officials at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), the law enforcement agencies, the cultural institutions and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Fiji.

On behalf of the UN and UNESCO, Mr Sanaka Samarashinha, the UN Resident Coordinator based in Suva, delivered an opening speech. Appreciating this important initiative, first of its kind in Pacific Island States, Mr Samarashinha reiterated the relevance of the Hague Convention and its Protocols in the current internal context and the commitment of the international community by referring to several UN Security Council resolutions in relation to the CPP and conflicts.

He underlined that the destruction of cultural heritage was not only a threat to cultural rights but also a tool for terrorism financing, and that the CPP was imperative for peace and security. He also highlighted the linkage of the CPP to the other global agenda related to Sustainable Development Goals, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Climate Change.

The Training began with the RFMF’s presentation on a review on its ongoing training program in the angle of the CPP.  Representing the UNESCO Chair for the CPP and Peace at New Castle University, Mr Nigel Jones shared his experiences and information related to existing training programs and learning materials on the CPP. UNESCO Military Manual was introduced to the Training participant. The representatives of the law enforcement agencies, ICRC Office in Suva. Blue Shield Pasifika (BSP) (Committee in preparation), and the cultural institutions in Fiji contributed their inputs to the Training discussions.

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On the second day, all the participants made a visit to the Fiji Museum to learn its CPP strategy and measures. The exhibition on Fiji and the UN Peace Keeping Operations prepared by the Fiji Museum in cooperation with the National Archives of Fiji was put on display at the Fiji Museum to coincide with the Training.

The ToT concluded in developing an action plan identifying priority actions, among others:

·    enhance information sharing and collaboration among various sectors to ensure CPP at peacetime and during armed conflicts based on the clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities,

·    include CPP in the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Defense and ensure full integration of CPP-related materials into the military training program,

·    extend the inventories of cultural properties and sites managed by the cultural institutions,

·    advocate for increased resources to ensure sustainable actions for CPP,

·    advance the national process towards ratification of the Hague Convention and its protocols through policy review and more capacity building.

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