On 16 November 2020, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas opened the conference “Cultural Heritage and Multilateralism” organised by the German Federal Foreign Office from 16 to 18 November 2020 in cooperation with UNESCO, the European Union and the Council of Europe. The framework and occasion for the joint event was the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property (1970), the German EU Council Presidency and the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement in his welcoming address:
The fire at Notre-Dame in Paris and the explosion in Beirut go to show that we must often act fast in order to protect cultural heritage. Other threats such as climate change have a more insidious, but just as destructive, impact on world heritage sites – one example is the Venice lagoon. Armed conflicts and the illegal trade in cultural objects also destroy places which humanity has admired and derived meaning from for centuries. It is impossible to tackle all of this alone. Cultural heritage cannot be preserved without joint action.
At the opening of the virtual conference, Foreign Minister Maas welcomed the UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić, the EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed.
Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, welcomed international experts from science, politics and culture. In several panel discussions, experiences and knowledge were exchanged on how the international community can work together to protect cultural heritage.
Opening speech by Foreign Minister Maas: