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Heritage Destruction: lessons from the Middle East and North Africa region for post-conflict countries

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma CunliffeORCiD



This is the final published version of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by Brandenburg Cottbus University, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The current levels of heritage destruction in conflict have caused great concern to both local and international communities. Equally worrying is the realisation that we are ill-prepared in some regions to deal with the aftermath, accompanied by the knowledge that the risks to heritage during this period do not necessarily lessen, only change. However, in many countries, there is no defined ‘end’ to the conflict period, or even the start of an official (ICRC defined) “armed conflict”, but ongoing unrest and the complicated security situation hinders the management and protection of heritage sites. This paper will present an overview of EAMENA’s work in the Middle East and North Africa, showcasing our approach to dealing with heritage in countries that are experiencing significant unrest, in order to highlight the lessons that can be learned and applied to post-conflict countries. Using examples from Libya and Egypt, neither of which are in conflict, but which are both struggling with civil unrest, I will highlight the types of damage that are often overlooked, that occur to the majority of the heritage resource. Civil unrest provides an opportunity for increasing illegal development and unrestricted agriculture, and – as many MENA countries lack comprehensive digitised heritage records – such activity can be hard to monitor and prevent, even on World Heritage sites. All of Libya’s World Heritage sites, for example, have just been placed on the World Heritage in Danger list, and Egypt’s sites are also suffering. In some countries, entire landscapes devoted to a particular activity are at risk. For example, in Egypt, areas with a long history of mineral exploitation are also witnessing extensive re-exploitation, (both local and international), destroying the largely unrecorded historical mines. In addition, the international media attention on high profile extremist incidents has diverted attention from the more localised – and more widespread - expressions of this phenomenon, which must be understand in a local context in order to comprehend the true extent and full impact of the issue. In such cases, the EAMENA approach is vital, as without a comprehensive understanding of the full extent of threats to the heritage resource, and the problems created by decreasing security – of exactly the sort seen in post-conflict countries – it is extremely difficult to understand the threats to heritage at this time, and to develop and implement strategies that can counter them. This paper will finish by highlighting the work of EAMENA in aiding our colleagues in the MENA region in tackling the threats to their heritage. This works includes creation and collation of baseline data, the creation of watch lists for key locations, and training for staff in MENA countries in both satellite imagery interpretation and the creation of digital records for heritage recording. We believe this provides a best-practice approach to heritage management, and offers insight into methods of tackling heritage loss in the post-conflict period.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cunliffe E

Editor(s): Schneider P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 4th International Conference on Heritage Conservation and Site Management- Catastrophe and Challenge: Cultural Heritage in Post-Conflict Recovery

Year of Conference: 2017

Number of Volumes: 1

Pages: 113-126

Print publication date: 01/12/2017

Online publication date: 01/12/2017

Acceptance date: 01/12/2017

Date deposited: 04/01/2018

Publisher: Brandenburg Cottbus University