Count on Italy, with its rich history and vast cultural heritage — including the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world — to spearhead the first “cultural peacekeeping force” of its kind.
Citing the Milan-based Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Worldcrunch’s Le Blog reports that the taskforce, which will operate under the auspices of the United Nations, will be comprised of both Italian military personnel and various experts in art history, antiquities, and restoration projects.
[The] new force — named “Unite for Heritage” — will not deploy to combat zones such as Palmyra, Syria to prevent them from being destroyed by groups like the Islamic State (ISIS). Instead the force could be sent to places suffering grave environmental or political crises, such as post-earthquake Nepal or peaceful post-conflict countries, to help assess the damage to heritage sites and aid the countries in rebuilding.
Last week at Rome’s historic Baths of Diocletian, the Italian government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) jointly launched the new cultural peacekeeping force. Several high-ranking Italian ministers joined UNESCO director Irina Bokova for the landmark announcement, showcasing Italy’s role as a cultural leader intent on providing its artistic expertise to the world.
The task force’s personnel, provided by the Italian ministries of defense and culture, have undergone specialized training and could soon be deployed to Libya to secure the country’s wealth of ancient architecture before they are threatened directly by ISIS.
Italian defense minister Roberta Pinotti told the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa that the Italian paramilitary police, known as carabinieri, have a long history of specialized work in defending heritage sites in war zones.