This is an open letter to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the United Nations, and all citizens that care about preserving humanity and civilization.
Mali has been struggling for the past year with Islamist forces. Though I don’t personally believe in the military involvement of my country (Canada) in foreign affairs, this particular issue has disturbed me and made me reconsider military involvement from my country in future conflicts.
Timbuktu is a World Heritage Site, with thousands of ancient manuscripts still relevant to today’s daily grind and struggles. Recently many of the libraries and manuscripts have been destroyed because of the conflict in northern Mali. This is not acceptable under any circumstance. These documents represented a great deal, showing how far humanity has come and giving us great insight as to what’s to come in the future.
We have to accept that they are gone, that nothing can been done to save those lost documents, but we can also recognize that this is avoidable, and we can prevent this from happening again. The United Nations did not react quick enough to save these manuscripts; neither did any country or global power. Now that Mali has assistance, Timbuktu can be protected and the Heritage Site preserved. But this should have been done beforehand. This should be done for every Heritage Site, as global leaders severely failed to protect a piece of our human identity.
With this said, the proposition of a new agency (under the United Nations) or a new mandate for UNESCO to provide armed protection of all World Heritage Sites should be made. This would prevent any more loss of historical, cultural, or environmental significance from our own human toils. A convoy of United Nations soldiers at every site (or at least at sites that were at risk of destruction, such as Timbuktu when the conflict started) would provide the security that these sites deserve, as well as ease of mind for all global citizens, who do not want to see their leaders fail to protect what’s important to them.
You can help by writing a letter to your local political representative, foreign affairs representative, and to UNESCO World Heritage Center.