UNESCO meeting to discuss threats to cultural heritage


Unequal access to new technologies, illicit trafficking and other threats to cultural heritage are among the issues on the agenda for an international culture ministers meeting in Mexico on Wednesday.

Representatives of around 190 UNESCO member states will participate in the three-day World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development in Mexico City.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that culture is vital for public health, according to conference coordinator Pablo Raphael.

“No one would have been able to survive the confinement and stress…without books, music and cinema,” he said.

But the health crisis also laid bare technological inequalities between different communities, Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto told AFP.

One of the meeting’s objectives is to find ways to guarantee artists access to technologies to share their work.

The final declaration is expected to include a call to recognize culture as a “global public good” that benefits all of the world’s citizens.

The aim is also for the United Nations’ sustainable development goals to contain a “reasonable objective” in terms of culture, Frausto said.

Two issues on the agenda — defending communities’ intellectual property and the restitution of cultural property — are of particular interest to Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized foreign auctions of items that form part of other nations’ cultural heritage as “immoral.”

Since 2019, Mexico has managed to retrieve thousands of pre-Hispanic archaeological pieces from abroad that were in private collections or set to be auctioned.

Some were handed over voluntarily while others, such as items in Italy, were recovered in police raids.

Mexico also regularly denounces what it calls plagiarism by foreign fashion houses of the motifs, embroidery and colors of its Indigenous communities.

The Latin American nation has lodged complaints of alleged violation of intellectual property against major clothing brands including Zara and Mango in the past.

The government of war-torn Ukraine will participate by video in a session about “heritage and cultural diversity in crisis.”

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