Academy Discourse by Mounir Bouchenaki, Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage
The current ongoing human suffering that is taking place in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq but also with events in North Africa and parts of Asia, is occurring within multiple different contexts; social, historical, political, economic, cultural and religious. This Academy Discourse affords a new perspective on these issues.
Besides targeting human lives, conflicts have a profound impact on human values, cultures and religions. Increasingly, conflicts target symbols of culture to destroy identities and lead to the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage—but this damage can also be accidental. Looking back at the events that have marked the past 30 years, it is clear that the international community must continue to find mechanisms to improve response to these emergencies. UNESCO was created in 1945 in the wake of the Second World War to foster a new spirit of collaboration between nations. The preamble to its Constitution reads “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” When ICCROM was initially created in 1956, it was in this same spirit of international collaboration, to provide assistance to those nations facing the challenges of restoring and preserving the tangible symbols of their culture after the war.
Mounir Bouchenaki is Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage based in Bahrain (since the end of 2013) and Special Advisor to the Director-General of International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and also to the Director-General of UNESCO.
In November 2005, Bouchenaki was elected Director-General of ICCROM, a role which he held from March 2006 until 31 December 2011. His appointment at ICCROM followed a career of 25 years at UNESCO, where he was Assistant Director-General for Culture from December 1999 to February 2006.
From 1982 to 1999, Bouchenaki had been successively appointed as Chief of Section for Operational Activities (Sector of Culture), Director of the Division of Cultural Heritage and Director of the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO.
In his native country, Algeria, Bouchenaki was Director of Antiquities, Museums and Historic Monuments from 1974 to 1981.
Bouchenaki holds a PhD in Archaeology and Ancient History from the Humanities and Arts Faculty of Aix-en-Provence (France, 1973) and has published several books and articles on ancient history and on the safeguarding of Cultural Heritage.
Bouchenaki was awarded the titles of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1986 and Officier des Arts et des Lettres in 1995 by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2002, he was raised to the rank of Commendatore of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by the President of the Italian Republic. He was awarded by the President of the French Republic the title of "Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur" in 2005. In November 2007 he received the “Gold Medail of Cultural Merit”, awarded by the Algerian Ministry of Culture. In 2011 he received the Medal of Cultural Merit from the Principality of Monaco.