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Italy sets up Unesco task force to protect antiquities in conflict areas

Team will also provide training for local restorers

by Hannah McGivern  |  17 February 2016
Italy sets up Unesco task force to protect antiquities in conflict areas
Unesco's general director Irina Bokova shakes hands with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni during a ceremony for the inauguration of the Italian Task Force. Photo: Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Italian government and Unesco have launched an Italian task force that will protect heritage sites in conflict zones worldwide. The foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni and the director-general of Unesco Irina Bokova signed an agreement in Rome yesterday, 16 February.

The task force may be called by Unesco member states to assess damage, plan conservation efforts, and combat looting and trafficking in cases of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. They will also provide training for local restorers. An initial core of 60 members includes officers from Italy’s specialist police force for art crime, the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, as well as art historians, scholars and restorers from four of the country’s top conservation institutions. University professors may be able to volunteer to join in the future. A training centre will be based in Turin.

The Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, hailed the agreement as “an Italian success in the name of the defence of culture and civilisation”. It formalises the declaration made by 83 culture ministers last August in Milan to “condemn violence against world cultural heritage”. In October, Unesco approved Italy’s proposal to create a peacekeeping force with expertise in cultural heritage, the “Blue Helmets of Culture”.

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