Deutsche Welle – UNESCO – A Monumental Decision 

For different countries, the phrase “monument protection” evokes different feelings. As the press talked to countries in Europe and the West, delegates spoke of comprehensive initiatives which covered the “three Rs”, including revival, redistribution, and routine. To them, revival represented spearheading projects to restore the original glory of the monuments, redistribution meant obtaining government and private donations in order to fund such projects and routinely represented the implementation of emergency task forces to save rapidly declining monuments and to offer protection to historic sites. Conversely, for countries such as China and India, the protection of monuments connoted something else entirely. When these delegates spoke of revival and redistribution, they spoke of their desire to demand that artifacts stolen by European countries during their history of colonization be returned home, they spoke about wanting to make a monetary profit off of the monuments which belonged to them, they spoke of the cultural significance of such an ambitious project as global repatriation. The essence of the discussion was that restoration couldn’t commence until artifacts were redistributed fairly. 

Though it was too early into the conference for the press to look over the drafts of working papers, it was already clear that two opposing ideals had been cemented. Germany itself has begun the repatriation of artifacts that had been stolen from Africa during the colonialism period. According to the Berlin-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages many of Germany’s museums, the country has entered negotiations with representatives from Namibia, Tanzania, and Cameroon. At the same time, Germany also aims to protect and preserve its own artifacts. Because Germany is currently suffering a drought, and because many of our artifacts contain flammable agents such as straw and wood, the country is funding projects to replace flammable substances with protective materials. Simultaneously, Germany is interested in exploring the removal of oxygen from locations within the artifacts that are not frequented by people. Ultimately, by combining restoration and repatriation, the country aims to protect and preserve all global artifacts.