At UNESCO, President Zelensky officially announces Odesa’s candidacy to receive World Heritage status

Tuesday, 11 October 2022
access_time 3 min read
(11/10/2022) © UNESCO | C.Alix

President Zelensky made official the candidacy of the historic centre of Odesa for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in a speech to the Organization’s Executive Board on Tuesday afternoon. Receiving the application, Audrey Azoulay, the Organization’s Director-General, stressed that “this initiative marks confidence in UNESCO's protection mechanisms.”

President Zelensky made the announcement in a pre-recorded video message to the 58 Member States of UNESCO’s Executive Board on Tuesday afternoon. He formalized the World Heritage nomination of the historic centre of Odesa and expressed “gratitude” to the UN organization for actions it has led in Ukraine under its mandate, and called for an “expansion of joint efforts” to protect the country's cultural heritage.

UNESCO had formally received the nomination file from a delegation led by Ambassador Vadym Omelchenko, Permanent Delegate of Ukraine to UNESCO, and by Hennadiy Trukhanov, Mayor of Odesa on Tuesday morning. The file will be reviewed by the consultative bodies and examined at the next session of the World Heritage Committee, whose 21 Member States will be responsible for deciding on the nomination.

“The fabric of the centre of the port city of Odesa, a melting pot of exchange and migration, reflects multiple influences. It bears a heritage and a history that resonates with people around the world and stands as a powerful symbol.”

In line with established procedures, and with the notable support of Italy and Greece, UNESCO mobilized international experts to provide the Ukrainian authorities with technical assistance in preparing the application file, in view of threats linked to the ongoing war.

More than a symbolic act, legal protection

The inscription of the historic centre of Odesa on the World Heritage List would recognize the exceptional universal value of this site and the duty of humanity as a whole to protect it. In legal terms, it would establish an extended protection zone under the 1972 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Indeed, under the Convention, ratified by both Ukraine and Russia, signatories undertake to assist in the protection of listed sites. They are furthermore obliged to refrain from taking any deliberate measures which might directly or indirectly damage World Heritage.

Inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger would moreover open access to emergency international assistance mechanisms, both technical and financial, to strengthen the protection of the property and help its rehabilitation.

To date, none of the Ukrainian cultural sites benefiting from UNESCO’s protection by virtue of their inscription on the World Heritage List have been bombed.

Over $18 million raised by UNESCO for Ukraine

Since the beginning of the war, UNESCO has been deploying emergency measures for Ukraine under its mandate for education, culture, science, information and communication. It has already raised more than $18 million for this purpose, which has included the delivery of equipment to secure museums and outdoor artworks, the distribution with Google of 50,000 computers to Ukrainian teachers, and the provision of more than 600 sets of bullet-proof vests and helmets for the protection of journalists on the ground.

In recent weeks, UNESCO has stepped up its support to Odesa in three ways:

  1. Funding to repair the damage inflicted on the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art (since the beginning of the war). UNESCO will also cover the cost of hiring additional staff to protect their collections.
  2. Support for the digitization of at least 1,000 works of art in Odesa and of documentary collection at the Odesa State Archives by providing the necessary technical equipment.
  3. The delivery of new equipment to the Odesa regional administration for the in situ protection of cultural properties: protective panels, sandbags, fire extinguishers, fireproof fabrics and gas masks to the Department of Culture, Religion and Protection of Architectural Heritage. They will enable the protection of monuments and sculptures in public spaces, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the war, to continue.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2022
access_time 3 min read
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Europe and North America