Recovery in Post-Conflict Arab States
Qatar’s regional leadership in heritage preservation efforts was among the themes at the international conference
Challenges and opportunities in the post-conflict recovery of cultural heritage in the Arab world was the focus of an international conference organized by the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in cooperation with the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Qatar National Library and Qatar Museums.
Held from 7-8 March, “Post-Conflict Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East and North Africa” gathered practitioners, experts, and scholars from different disciplines and leading universities in the region - including Egypt and Lebanon, Europe, Australia, and the US, to explore post-conflict heritage reconstruction and the management of cultural resources in the context of post-conflict societal recovery.
Over the past decades, a succession of armed conflicts within the region has seen the destruction of numerous tangible artifacts with historical, spiritual, and aesthetic values. Against this background, the interdisciplinary discussions ensured an in-depth analysis of the complexities in heritage reconstruction and recovery in Iraq, Libya, and Syria; safeguarding Palestine’s cultural heritage; challenges to engaging local communities; and women’s agency in preserving intangible cultural heritage, among many other topics.
In his opening address, Dr. Abdelwahab El Affendi, President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Provost of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar, said: “The recent events and disasters that befell the region and the rest of the world alerted us to the fragility of some aspects of our existence, on top of which is the cultural heritage. The State of Qatar plays a leading role in the efforts to rebuild and preserve heritage.”
While putting the challenges into focus, several speakers highlighted Qatar’s regional and global leadership in supporting post-recovery and cultural heritage reconstruction in the Arab region. Dr. Fatema Al Sulaiti, Director of the International Cooperation Department at Qatar Museums (QM), elaborated on the efforts by QM in the MENA region, as well as representing Qatar on UNESCO’s Committee for Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. She said that “Cultural heritage has a value that people communicate with, and it has many aspects and tools.”
In a session on “Cultural Heritage Aid, Qatar, and the World”, Stephane Ipert, Director of Distinctive Collections at Qatar National Library, spoke of the Library’s mission to safeguard documentary cultural heritage under threat. With a crucial role as an IFLA Preservation and Conservation Regional Center, the Library has launched several projects and also works with partners to support on-the-ground rehabilitation initiatives. The Himaya project supports efforts to counter the trafficking and illegal circulation of documentary heritage in the region.
Commenting afterward, Ipert said: “The immense scale of cultural heritage destruction over the past decade has created an urgent need for a critical interrogation of reconstruction and recovery in the region. The interdisciplinary conversations at the conference helped us all better understand individual efforts and collectively find ways to strengthen their cumulative impact. It has been especially valuable to explore the growing body of scholarship and contribute towards creating a comparative knowledge base that helps our endeavors.”
Alongside the scholarly discussions, Dr. Nour A. Munawar, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, curated a photo exhibition that vividly depicted the enormous damage to the invaluable cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq during highly destructive conflicts. Titled “Between Aleppo and Mosul”, the exhibition highlighted the scale and extent of the destruction.
For more about Qatar National Library, please visit www.qnl.qa