The Value(s) of UNESCO

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Statue of Liberty © David Gill

One of the many roles for UNESCO has been the recognition of World Heritage Sites around the world. The news that both the US and the State of Israel will be withdrawing from the funding of UNESCO raises deep concerns.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has had a major impact on the way that countries can protect their cultural property in the face of organised looting and damage. Over 300 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections as a result of this benchmark for cultural property. (The value of this Convention is discussed on “Looting Matters“.)

Among the WHS locations in the USA is the Statue of Liberty that was inscribed on the list back in 1984. As UNESCO states, the statue “endures as a highly potent symbol – inspiring contemplation, debate, and protest – of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity”.

Remembering migrants

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Ellis Island © David Gill

The luggage in the hall of Ellis Island is a poignant reminder of approximately 12 million migrants who passed through this entry point for the United States in the hope of a better life. It contains the National Museum of Immigration as part of the National Park.

Proclaim Liberty

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Philadelphia, Liberty Bell © David Gill

One of the abiding heritage images from the USA is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia with its message, ‘Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof’, a quotation from Leviticus 25:10.

The text is a reminder about all, not some, of the people, and in all the land, not just in parts of it.

The bell is preserved by the National Park Service. It dates to 1753 (MDCCLIII).

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Philadelphia, National Park Service © David Gill