Expert meeting on Post-Conflict approaches in the Middle East

Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden

The Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO organizes an international expert meeting on the 17th and 18th of December in Leiden (the Netherlands) on UNESCO’s Conflict and Post-Conflict approaches, its Conventions and other international (policy) initiatives in North Africa and the Middle East.

Tuesday February 8th, 2011. Probably the day where the most protesters convened in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

The ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011- has triggered transformation processes in many domains of society in most countries around the Mediterranean. UNESCO is and always has been present in these countries, amongst others through the ratification and implementation of the major UNESCO Conventions. UNESCO supports the so-called Arab Spring in all efforts to create more open, pluralistic and knowledge-based societies, through offices in Cairo, Rabat, Beirut, Doha and Amman and new project antenna offices in Tunis and Tripoli.

This expert meeting is organised in order to strengthen and improve the connection between international policy instruments (such as UNESCO Conventions), standard-setting bodies and institutes, experts and organisations active in the field.

These policies support the development of a ‘civil society’. The focus on civil society is central to UNESCO’s intersectoral activities in the fields of culture, education and media, whereas both the Council of Europe, the Netherlands government with MATRA-South and the European Union focus on promoting democracy and human rights, and economic activities. Therefore, how culture and heritage can contribute to social cohesion and the development of shared notions of citizenship, will be a recurring theme throughout the international expert meeting.

The meeting focuses on three specific themes within conflict and post-conflict approaches:

    1. Heritage cooperation for social cohesion, reconstruction and rehabilitation is discussed in relation to UNESCO policy frameworks as well as other international policy frameworks;
    2. Capacity building as educational strategy;
    3. Strengthening the visibility of UNESCO for national and international policy development and the role of media in transformation processes.

The discussions on these themes will hopefully answer the two main questions of the meeting, namely: what are the strengths and weaknesses of the UNESCO policy frameworks for the transformation processes in the countries involved? Secondly, how can these frameworks be aligned in the best possible way with other international policy initiatives in order to support transformation processes in multilateral programs?

Participants will jointly draft recommendations on the basis of presentations and feedback-back meetings, outlining ways to increase the visibility of UNESCO in conflict and post-conflict situations and transformation processes. A very concrete outcome might be exploring the need for operational guidelines related to the UNESCO Conventions and other international policy frameworks together with a related monitoring and evaluation toolkit for activities and projects in post-conflict situations and countries in transition.