Statement by H.E. Ambassador Toshiya Hoshino, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Destruction and Trafficking of Cultural Heritage by Terrorist Groups, and in Situations of Armed Conflict

(As delivered)
Thank you, Mr. President.

          At the outset, I would like to thank the briefers for their passion and important insights.
          Cultural heritage represents the history and identity of a nation or state. At the same time, it embodies the values of our common humanity. Yet, as demonstrated in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Mali and many other places in the world, we are facing a cruel reality in which cultural heritage is targeted for destruction, looting and smuggling by terrorist groups as a “tactic of war”. Japan strongly condemns these heinous acts.
          For this reason, protecting cultural heritage is more than just a cultural issue; it is a “peace and security issue”. We must not neglect the cultural aspect when talking about peace and security. Japan therefore commends the Italian presidency for bringing this important topic to the Security Council again.
 
Mr. President,

          Japan has long attached special emphasis on international cooperation for the protection of cultural heritage, as demonstrated by our longstanding public-private-academic partnership to restore Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to safeguard the Bamiyan site in Afghanistan etc. Through these efforts, we have come to realize that protecting cultural heritage is a form of “peacebuilding of hearts and mind” and it undoubtedly contributes to the reconstruction and sustaining peace of a nation or state.
 
          Based on our own experiences, I would like to present several insights that Japan wants to share among the Council Members.
 
          First, Japan reaffirms its full commitment to promote deepening, universalizing and implementing international norms.
In this regard, Japan welcomes the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2347, as it is a significant step forward in the normative aspect. Japan is resolved to steadily implement the obligations deriving from this resolution.
          Japan is a state party to the 1954 Hague Convention, the 1970 Convention, the Palermo Convention and other related conventions. Under these legal frameworks, various domestic measures have been introduced. I would like to encourage other States, which are not yet parties to these conventions, to join us in our efforts.
 
          Second, we need to put into practice a global criminal justice response which focuses on holding perpetrators accountable. Coordination among the United Nations System and other relevant international organizations such as UNODC and INTERPOL to assist Member States is critical to accomplish this end.
          In this respect, Japan has carefully followed the judicial case of Mali, in which the International Criminal Court sentenced an individual responsible for attacking religious buildings in Timbuktu to 9 years in prison and issued reparation orders. This is the first judgment to clearly demonstrate that the destruction of cultural heritage amounts to a war crime, and perpetrators should be held accountable.
 
          Third, safeguarding cultural heritage through capacity building should be encouraged. The Government of Japan established the “UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation of World Cultural Heritage” in 1989, in response to the Government’s decision to set “cultural contribution” as one of its priority areas of international cooperation.
          We have so far contributed approximately 68 million US dollars in this fund for 44 projects in 61 countries.
 
          Lastly, I would like to underline the importance of enhancing partnerships, as we need a comprehensive and multi-faceted response in terms of protecting cultural heritage. Information sharing and coordination among a broad range of stakeholders, such as the tourism sector, museums and dealers, is critically important.
 
Mr. President,

          To conclude, I would like to state that enhancing respect for other cultures is a fundamental starting point for the success of our collective actions.
          Japan is fully committed to engage and cooperate with the United Nations and Member States to protect cultural heritage and thwart the atrocities of terrorists and violent extremists, focusing on the four points I have just stated.

Thank you, Mr. President.