Continuing Italian engagement in heritage cooperation and rescue programmes in the Middle East, and in particular in post-war Iraq, where support was secured for the restoration and reopening of the National Library and Museum in Bagdad.
3.4.5 Cross-border intercultural dialogue and co-operation
As already mentioned (see chapter 3.4.1), Italy's cross border cooperation in technical assistance and capacity building in the heritage field has acquired a growing relevance since the end of the 1990s. The widely internationally acknowledged scientific excellence of our archaeologists, art historians and restorers, coupled with a progressive use of new technologies, have contributed to Italy's leading role as far as cooperation in heritage policies is concerned. These initiatives have been mainly carried out by MAE's DG for Cooperation and Development, with MiBAC's technical and scientific assistance and in some cases with the co-financing of UNESCO and / or the World Bank. Several other cultural cooperation initiatives by MiBAC, in particular in the Mediterranean region, take place in the framework of the European Union programmes, like EUROMED.
It should also be singled out that – whereas, up to the 1990s, Italian heritage cooperation programmes have mainly benefited Mediterranean countries – in the subsequent years such programmes have been significantly extended to other regions of the world, like Latin America (Cuba, Ecuador, Peru...) and Asia. Cooperation programmes in the heritage field have been focused in particular on actions dealing with "culture as a vehicle for peace" in key troubled countries: from the Balkans (with the highly symbolic restoration of the Mostar Bridge) to the Middle East. Italian archaeological missions and restoration teams have been actively engaged in the rescue of dispersed and damaged heritage artefacts and in the support and fostering of infringed cultural identities in Iran, in post-war Afghanistan and, notably, in Iraq, whose exceptionally relevant ancient Mesopotamian archaeological heritage has been very seriously damaged during the recent war.
As far as the latter country is concerned, besides coping with emergencies like the rescue and reopening of the main sites and institutions – including the National Library and the National Museum in Baghdad – and the training of personnel to enhance the local activities of preservation, restoration and cataloguing of rare artefacts – like the cuneiform tablets – innovative projects were also launched, like the Iraq Virtual Museum (see http://virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it). The latter scientific and technological endeavour by MAE and the National Centre for Research (CNR) is aimed at increasing interactive accessibility of Iranian artistic and archaeological heritage, also in order to enhance the country's attractiveness by means of cultural tourism in view of its economic revival.
These kinds of cooperation programmes with developing countries - mainly dealing with comprehensive technical assistance in the rescue of archaeological sites and artefacts and historical city centres, in museum organisation and rehabilitation, as well as in technical and managerial capacity building in the field - are actually particularly favoured by both MiBAC and MAE, not only for their undoubted support to those countries' sustainable economic development and in providing qualified local occupations, but also, last but not least, for their great potential in promoting intercultural dialogue and a safer environment. Close cooperation in the conservation and re-appropriation of their country's heritage and identity, should thus be considered as a peculiar "Italian way" to intercultural dialogue and to contributing to better mutual comprehension and understanding.
For more information, see our Intercultural Dialogue section.