Heritage a fundamental right, responsibility of all: ICOMOS

New Delhi, Dec 15 (PTI) The responsibility for safeguarding heritage extends between nations and cultures, and any intentional destruction that aims to erase a cultural identity is a “breach of fundamental human rights”, the Delhi Declaration passed by the ICOMOS said today.

The five-day 19th General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), hosted for the first time in India, culminated in New Delhi today, at the end of which the declaration was passed by the global heritage body.

“This declaration reflects a commitment by the ICOMOS to heritage and democracy as key ingredients in a people-based approach to sustainable development. Heritage is a fundamental right and responsibility of all.

“It is a starting point for a meaningful and equitable future that secures and celebrates diversity, social engagement, equality and justice for all cultures,” reads the opening words of the declaration.

The assembly, that began on December 11, convened 890 heritage experts from 80 countries around the world.

“The responsibility for safeguarding heritage extends between nations and cultures. Intentional destruction which aims to erase cultural identity is a breach of fundamental human rights,” the section ‘Ensure continuity of living heritage’ of the declaration reads.

ICOMOS is a prestigious global non-government organisation dedicated to promoting the application of theory, methodology, and scientific techniques to the conservation of the architectural and archaeological heritage world over.

It is also an advisory body to the UNESCO for cultural heritage, in particular for implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, at the valedictory session of the assembly, said the government will support ICOMOS in fulfilling its objective of making heritage “people-centric”, rather than just focusing on monuments and sites.

He also said that sustainability is a human rights the society must strive for.

The text of the declaration was read out by a few ICOMOS members. “Engaging and training the new generation in the understanding and protection of the inherited values of our living and shared heritage sustains the plural legacies of the past,” it said.

At the assembly, conservator Saleh Lamei from Egypt was awarded the Gazzola Prize, the highest honour given by ICOMOS.

The prize was established in 1979 in memory of Piero Gazzola, an ICOMOS founder and one of the greatest defenders of conservation and restoration of historic monuments and sites.

“The prize is awarded every three years at the General Assembly of ICOMOS to an individual or a group of people who have worked together and contributed with distinction to the aims and objectives of ICOMOS,” according to ICOMOS website.

During the assembly, one of the vice presidents of ICOMOS Toshiyuki Kono (Japan) was elected its president.

He will succeed Gustavo Araoz from the US, said Rohit Jigyasu, president of ICOMOS India, who was elected as one of the vice presidents.

“I will continue to hold ICOMOS India president position, besides my new responsibility,” he said, adding, “It was proud moment for Delhi to host the assembly, making it to be hosted for the third time in Asia, besides China and Sri Lanka”.

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