The meeting between the Ministers of Culture of the G7 adopted a declaration which conceives culture as a tool for dialogue between peoples and raised the issue of protection of cultural heritage threatened by wars, illicit trafficking and natural disasters.

 

Italy, which took over the presidency of the G7 from 1 January 2017, hosted the first G7 for Ministers of Culture on the theme "Culture as a tool for dialogue between peoples". The meeting, which took place in Florence on 30 and 31 March, was also attended by European Commissioner for Culture and the UNESCO Secretary General. The summit was an opportunity to share ideas and proposals on the issue of armed conflict and the preservation of national identity, presenting culture as a tool for dialogue between peoples. The aim was precisely to adopt a joint document which considers culture as a tool for dialogue, the so-called Declaration of Florence. Indeed, as stated by Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Culture, it is a honor that this happened on Italian impulse». The representatives of the G7 countries reaffirmed their commitment to restoring and preserving the world heritage damaged by natural disasters or during conflicts or attacked by terrorism, calling to combat illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.

 

In the Florence Declaration, seven Ministers expressed «deep concern at the ever-increasing risk, arising not only from terrorist attacks, armed conflicts and natural disasters but also from raids, looting and other crimes committed on a global scale, to cultural heritage and all related institutions and properties, such as museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives and libraries». In fact, in recent years, the international community has witnessed the destruction of many cultural sites, considered as tragic event «as such actions obliterate irreplaceable patrimony, extinguish the identity of targeted communities and erase any evidence of past diversity or religious pluralism». Therefore, it is necessary «to promote effective implementation of existing international legal instruments for protection of the world’s cultural heritage» calling upon the «United Nations, in particular UNESCO and other relevant International Organizations», but above all the member States «to take strong and effective measures to combat the looting and trafficking in cultural property from their places of origin, particularly from countries experiencing conflict and internal strife, and to identify and prohibit the trade in looted cultural property that has been trafficked across borders and, as appropriate, to reinforce the monitoring of free ports and free trade zones». On the other hand, the Ministers of Culture recognized the importance of a closer cooperation between judicial and police authorities to deal with illicit phenomena. In addition, the Florence Declaration recalls the Security Council UN Resolution no. 2347 (2017) on the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflicts, proposing that security missions and peacekeeping established by the Security Council would encompass «a cultural heritage protection component». Finally, the Ministers of Culture «encourage the forthcoming Chairs of the G7 to organize future meetings of Ministers of Culture and cultural authorities», in order to monitor the progress of heritage protection worldwide.

G7 Culture marks the end of a long journey that has seen Italy at the forefront within the international community to promote the protection of cultural heritage, threatened and destroyed by men, as in the case of the Islamic State, or by more and more frequent natural disasters. Actually, cultural heritage does not simply represent the heritage of the country and the people who own them, but the entire heritage of humankind, while the illicit trafficking of archaeological heritage is a source of funding for terrorism. Therefore, on 1 August 2015, on the occasion of Expo Milano 2015, 83 countries signed the Charter of Milan that condemned the violence against cultural heritage. Afterward, on 13 November 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution committing each member State to set up a national task force Unite4Heritage to be deployed in defense of world cultural heritage in danger and urged the United Nations to discuss the opportunity to encompass a cultural component in its peacekeeping missions. Italy is the first member State of the United Nations which, on 16 February 2016, set up its own task force Unite4Heritage (consisting of historians, scholars, restorers and the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command), ready to intervene under the auspices of UNESCO in crisis areas for the protection of world cultural heritage, with an agreement signed during a meeting in Rome between the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Paolo Gentiloni, and the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, attended by the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, the Minister of Defense, Roberta Pinotti, the then Minister of Education, University and Research, Stefania Giannini, and the Commander General of the Carabinieri, Tullio Del Sette. Finally, on the Italian-French initiative of Italy and France, on 24 March 2017, the Security Council approved resolution 2347 (2017).