Libraries and Archives must be protected as essential parts of the rich heritage of Iraq.

By Koïchiro Matsuura

As the evidence of the destruction of many parts of the cultural heritage in Iraq is increasing, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today warned of the devastation and looting of libraries and archives in the country, which may have irreversible consequences for maintaining and strengthening the country's cultural identity. "I reiterate my urgent call to take immediate measures of protection and surveillance of Iraqi cultural institutions to which libraries and archives belong", declared Mr Matsuura.

"Libraries, archives and manuscripts must be preserved as essential parts of the rich heritage of Iraq. Libraries are the essence of knowledge societies. Nearly twenty centuries of written history of mankind are in danger; everything must be done to protect them from looting and destruction ", Mr. Matsuura said.

"Measures must be taken to protect governmental records that are held by archives, since they are vital for the functioning of public administration after the war, for example, to protect the legal, financial and contractual rights of Iraqi citizens", Mr Matsuura added.

Through its Memory of the World Programme[1], UNESCO is recognized as the international lead agency for the protection of the world's documentary heritage in libraries and archives and has established Guidelines both for the safeguarding of vital records in the event of armed conflicts and for the management of state security archives of former repressive regimes.

[Source: UNESCO, 15 April 2003]

War in Iraq and Global State of exception

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