UNESCO


New Career Opportunities in Iraq

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Finger pressing a new career start button, from Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock)

Reconstruction: Reviving the Spirit of Mosul

Reconstruction and recovery in Iraq: Reviving the Spirit of Mosul

The ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’ Initiative was presented on 30 June 2018 during the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee.

Launched by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in February 2018, the Mosul Initiative is conceived in partnership with the Iraqi Government to integrate the human dimension in the reconstruction and recovery of the city, particularly through culture and education, after years of painful destruction. Between 2014 and 2017, historic monuments and sites were systematically destroyed in Iraq.

Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, pointed out that the international community has the responsibility to support the Iraqi people in the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq, and that the first signs are already positive.

“Last April in Baghdad, UNESCO and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic partnership for the reconstruction of Mosul, which includes rebuilding the iconic Great Mosque of Al Nuri and its leaning Al-Hadba minaret. This pioneering partnership is a message of hope that Iraq’s future will be shaped with its young women and men as agents of reconstruction and change in a prosperous, inclusive, reconciled and open society.” The United Arab Emirates have committed USD 50.4 million to rebuild and restore the Al Nuri Mosque over a five-year period.

H.E Fryad Rawandouzi, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq, expressed his gratitude to the countries standing alongside Iraq to protect its culture. “Iraq, which has stood up in the face of terrorism and triumphed, is fully aware of the power of culture to bring back hope and peace, and restore the archaeological sites, museums, buildings and intangible heritage that terrorism has destroyed. Culture contributes to peaceful coexistence.”

He also took the occasion to hand to Mr Ottone-Ramirez the submission of Mosul to be included on the Tentative List of sites of Iraq, for potential future inscription on the World Heritage List.

H.E Ruba Al Hassan, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, United Arab Emirates, said, “We have a collective responsibility, not only in the Arab region, but in the wider international community towards Iraq and other nations that have endured conflict to work towards protecting our shared heritage, not only as Muslims or as Arabs but as human beings who value the wealth and weight that heritage and culture brings to enriching our common humanity.”

Mosul is a living symbol of the multifaceted identity of Iraq, and one of the oldest cities in the world; it is at the crossroads of the Middle East and bears witness to the wealth of civilizations that crossed the region over centuries. The archaeological site of Nimrud, the Museum of Mosul, the Nabi Younes Shrine and many other sites there have been targeted for intentional destruction.

The ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’ initiative is a UNESCO priority and one of its most ambitious reconstruction and recovery campaigns.

A conference organized in conjunction with the Iraqi Government will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 10 September 2018, to mobilize the support of the international community.

(Source: UNESCO)

Mosul’s Great Mosque to be Restored to Former Glory

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

When the Al-Nouri Mosque and the adjacent al-Hadba minaret in Mosul were bombed by the Islamic State (IS) on June 21, 2017, many thought that the landmark mosque and its “hunchback” minaret most famous for its leaning structure were gone for good.

But today, there is some hope of restoring both structures. The reconstruction of the mosque and the minaret will start in June, said Nofal Sultan al-Akoub, the governor of Iraq’s northern province of Ninevah, on May 6.

The announcement follows a protocol signed April 23 between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, where the latter would commit $50.4 million over five years for the reconstruction of the mosque that dates from the 12th century. UNESCO is also a signatory to the reconstruction agreement.

The mosque is an important symbol for Mosul, and it was used in 2014 as the venue where Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and militants proclaimed a caliphate. Three years later, IS fighters blew it to pieces weeks before their defeat.

The minaret, which was one of the few remaining parts of the original construction, is less known to the international world. It had a design often attributed to Iranian architectural influence, with a white plastered top. It had a significant lean since the 14th century, and its likeness can be found on 10,000-dinar bills.

The main questions on the renovation are whether the amount allocated, which is one of the largest sums committed for a restoration project in Iraq, will be enough and whether the reconstruction will be successful.

Mohammed Nouri al-Abed Rabbo, a parliament member from Ninevah, told Al-Monitor that the next phase would be to take bids for the reconstruction after the government agencies finalized the contract and the blueprints for the work required.

Abed Rabbo added that the reconstruction process “needs more funding than what has been allocated by the UAE.” Pointing out that the monument was essentially razed to the ground, he said that great architectural skills would be required for the reconstruction, and UNESCO — the cultural arm of the UN — would need to be involved.

“There have been efforts since the liberation of Mosul to clean the mosque of explosive devices, remove rubble, document the destruction and collect the damaged authentic relics. The area was cordoned off to prevent the loss of the remaining relics from the minaret and the mosque,” Abed Rabbo added.

Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhssein al-Araji told Al-Monitor via phone that the reconstruction plan was developed following discussions and meetings with UNESCO. These meetings have taken up costs and conducted feasibility studies. He said he expected the construction to take at least four years.

“The implementation process is likely to take a long time, as it is a large area. Given its great historical importance, the work needs to be meticulous. We need to study the available historical data so it can be restored to its original architecture,” Araji added.

According to professor of modern history at Mosul University Ibrahim al-Allaf, Nur al-Din al-Zanki — who ruled Mosul — “ordered the building of the mosque [and its minaret] in A.D. 1172.”

Allaf said the mosque had been damaged many times in its history. “The Iraqi Department of Antiquities dismantled and rebuilt the mosque in 1942 as part of a renovation campaign,” Allaf told Al-Monitor. “Al-Hadba minaret is the only remaining feature of the original building of the mosque. Due to its historical value, the minaret has been printed on Iraqi banknotes.”

Leafing through the documents he held on the minaret, Allaf said of its structure: “The minaret was 55 meters high [although there are different accounts of its height], while the mosque area is about 6,000 square meters. The minaret’s base is large, and it features Islamic decorations on its four facades. The building of the entire mosque cost at the time 60,000 dinars of gold.”

Louise Haxthausen, the UNESCO director for Iraq, said at the press conference April 23 that the “reconstruction of the minaret is an ambitious project that carries major symbolism for the liberation of Mosul.”

The head of Iraq’s Parliamentary Committee on Media and Culture, Maysoon al-Damluji, who is from Mosul, told Al-Monitor that the National Authority for Antiquities and Heritage will be involved in the restoration, and that she hoped archaeologists and architects from Mosul would be involved.

“The reconstruction project will not only address the physical and structural aspects of the building, but also highlight the cultural and artistic heritage such as the decorations, ornaments, inscriptions and writings,” Damluji said. She urged the authorities to be careful “not to damage the remaining relics during the removal of rubble and the works on the site.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Kassem al-Juma, a retired professor from the University of Mosul and a UNESCO Islamic monuments and archaeology expert based in Mosul, told Al-Monitor, “No matter how meticulous and careful the work to restore the relics is, the restored building will not bear the same value of the original that was blown up by IS.”

“The minaret and the mosque were characterized by fine technical details such as the marble pillars of the praying room, the cubic crowns, the strip engraved with words from the Quranic verses, as well as the mosque’s mihrab ornamented with arabesque decorations carved on marble,” Juma added.

He said, “The summer prayer mihrab (the outdoor niche in the wall where the imam stands to conduct prayers) is made of marble. It is currently at the National Museum in Baghdad.”

Juma accompanied the UNESCO delegation that toured the site before the launch of the project. “I keep all the documents, blueprints and drawings of the mosque with all its parts, the architectural details, measurements and maps of the original locations,” he said.

“I worked for a full year in a field survey of the minaret and the mosque before IS entered Mosul in 2014. I documented the details of the mosque and the ceramic construction units with more than 500 sketches and technical drawings,” Juma said, adding, “The mosque has great moral, social and religious significance, as it has been in the past … the place to hold meetings and gatherings for religious and official public events.”

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Conserving Iran and Iraq’s Wetlands

There’s growing awareness in the Islamic Republic of Iran that wetlands are valuable and sustain livelihoods.

Ramsar, “the gem of northern Iran”, is the town that gives its name to the Ramsar Convention.

The Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It came into force more than 40 years ago.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has 24 sites designated as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) out of 2,290 worldwide. Of Iran’s 24 sites about one third are under pressure or in a critical condition.

Wetlands are vital for biodiversity. Large populations of migratory birds winter there or use them on their way to and from wintering areas in Africa or the Indian sub-continent.

The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been struggling to prevent its lakes and wetlands from drying up owing to extensive extraction of water by farmers for irrigation, growing extraction for non-agricultural uses, and climate change.

A telltale signal of vanishing wetlands is the increased frequency  and intensity of dust storms in Iran and across the region. The adverse situation has been compounded by 14 years of drought, according to Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Sand and dust storms, the advance guard of desertification, have been identified as one of the “emerging issues of environmental concern” in UN Environment’s latest Frontiers Report.

“The anthropogenic causes of sand and dust storms include deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices as well as excessive water extraction and the modification of water bodies for irrigation and other purposes,” says the report.

In the long term, only sustainable land and water management, integrated with measures addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, can improve the situation.

Iran is trying to deal with the problem. Its National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, Target 18, states: “By 2030, conservation and wise use of wetlands are strengthened and the situation for at least 50 per cent of degraded wetlands is improved.”

Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia, a Ramsar site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is a vast hypersaline lake with many islands, surrounded by extensive brackish marshes, in northeastern Iran. The lake is fed by rainfall, springs and streams and subject to seasonal variation in level and salinity. The brackish marshes are an important staging area for migratory waterbirds.

Around 6.4 million people and 200 species of birds live in the Urmia basin.

The lake ecosystem supports biodiversity and provides recreation and mental health benefits, as well as water for agriculture and industry. If the lake were to dry up completely, dust storms and disaster could result.

A study between 2002-2011 in the eastern sub-basin of Lake Urmia showed that agricultural activities, the expansion of farmland, and population increases over the last three decades led to the over-exploitation of resources, causing land degradation. The lake has been in decline since 1995. By August 2011, its surface area was only 2,366 km2, according to UN Environment. It further declined to 700km2 in 2013. NASA satellite data indicate that the lake lost about 70 percent of its surface area between 2002 and 2016.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is working with development partners and local communities to improve the situation. Engineering works have helped unblock and un-silt the feeder rivers, and there has been a deliberate release of water from dams in the surrounding hills. In September 2016 the Government of Iran and the Food and Agriculture Organization launched a four-year sustainable management project for the lake.

Recent indications are that the lake is recovering. The lake surface area is now 2,300 km2 (UN Development Programme, 2017). UN Environment’s November 2017 Foresight brief focuses on the extent of this recovery and measures being put in place to ensure this is sustained.

Hawizeh Marsh

In neighbouring Iraq, the Hawizeh Marsh, which extends across the border into Iran where it is known as Haur Al-Azim, was designated as the country’s first Ramsar site in 2007. Around 20-25 per cent of this wetland is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Part of the Mesopotamian marshland complex fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the whole region is suffering from the construction of upstream water control structures,  increasing water extraction for agriculture as well as reduced rainfall.. As a result, the Hawizeh marsh was placed on Ramsar’s register of threatened wetlands requiring priority attention.

In mid-2017, the Government of Iraq requested the Ramsar Secretariat to organize an advisory mission to the marshes to identify ways for future cooperation between Iraq and Iran as a first step towards the long-term conservation and sustainable development of the marshes, including ways to reduce the incidence of sand and dust storms.

The mission, which took place from 16 to 23 December 2017, involved  officials from  Iraq and Iran participating in workshops and conducting site visits on both sides of the border to better understand the situation. In cooperation with the Ramsar Secretariat, UN Environment is helping support the dialogue process which also includes consultations with local communities and participation of UN agencies.

Areas of agreed future cooperation include carrying out waterbird surveys,   creating a platform for exchanges of technical and scientific information on the ecology of the marshes, and joint celebration events on wetlands and water.

In a quick and positive step forward, a team of Iraqi bird experts joined Iranian surveyors in conducting a midwinter waterfowl count on the Iranian side of the marshes from 23-26 January 2018. Similarly, Iranian experts plan to collaborate in the waterfowl census in Iraq in early February 2018.

“Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future” is the theme for World Wetlands Day on 2 February 2018.

(Source: UN Environment)

UK brings UNMAS Contribution to $20m

The UK Government has donated an additional 1 million GBP (1.3 million USD) to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), increasing the UK total contribution to 14.2 million GBP (20 million USD).

The additional funding will boost UNMAS support to stabilization efforts by increasing survey and clearance of critical infrastructure in liberated areas. This is important before rehabilitation can commence and crucial for the safe, dignified and voluntary returns of displaced people.

The contribution will be used to deploy additional assets to Mosul during the months of January, February and March, in line with emergency operational needs. UNMAS began survey and clearance operations in Mosul’s Old City in late November 2017.

UNMAS efforts to ensure a coordinated stabilization response into Mosul have accelerated activities. Following planning meetings between the Government, UNMAS, UNDP, UN Habitat, UNEP, and UNESCO, UNMAS has now provided survey and clearance teams in five districts in the Old City.

UNMAS works in close collaboration with the Directorate for Mine Action and Iraqi Security Forces to complement the clearance work that has already taken place by the Government of Iraq following the liberation of Mosul.

Close collaboration with UNDP to provide survey and clearance capacities, as well as threat assessments, are an integral part of the Funding Facility for Stabilization’s (FFS) rapid needs assessment process in Mosul.

Between 1 December and 16 December 2017, UNMAS received 139 additional tasks from FFS, conducting survey and clearance in water treatment plants, hospitals and education centers. The additional funds will go towards continuing this response.

Jon Wilks, British Ambassador to Iraq, said:

“The survey and clearance work carried out by UNMAS is vital to the safety of returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq. This latest contribution demonstrates the UK’s enduring commitment to UNMAS’ work and to supporting humanitarian and stabilisation efforts in Iraq.”

Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager in Iraq, stated:

“Continuous support from the United Kingdom allows UNMAS to further extend its support and activities to enable stabilization priorities and humanitarian activities, encouraging the safe return of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to areas previously occupied by ISIL.”

Thanks to the generous contribution from the UK Government, UNMAS’ work has been made possible.

UNMAS will continue ensuring that explosive hazards are cleared in support of stabilization efforts and enabling access for humanitarian activities across Iraq. The total contribution of 14.2 million GBP (20 million USD) is supporting this life saving work in liberated areas of Anbar, Salah ah-Din, Ninewa and Kirkuk governorates.

(Source: United Nations)

High-Level Workshop on Groundwater Management in Iraq

EU and UNESCO organize High-Level Workshop on “Building a Roadmap for Effective Groundwater Management in Iraq”

The European Union (EU) and UNESCO organized a high level meeting on “Building a Roadmap for Effective Groundwater Management in Iraq”, in the context of the EU-funded project entitled “Advanced hydrogeological survey of groundwater resources in Iraq phase 2 (ASHRI-2)”.

The meeting aimed at setting out a path towards developing the future national capacity strategy of the water sector in Iraq.

Building upon UNESCO’s long experience and studies in the field of drought and water resources’ management in Iraq, ASHRI-2 crucially addresses water shortage and scarcity, and its dangerous outcome on socio-economic and cultural development, health, environment and eco-systems.

Since its launch in November 2013, ASHRI-2 has delivered critical data, information and knowledge management tools required for sound management of groundwater resources in Iraq and deployed state-of-the-art methodologies and techniques in geo-scientific mapping of groundwater resources, and IT-based database management, forming important outcomes of the.

Recognizing the Iraqi authorities’ ownership of these products and tools, key project partners including the Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad (MoWR), the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources (MoWAR) of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee (PMAC), discussed a set of recommendations to develop and utilize water resources sustainably.

H.E. Abdulsatar Majeed, the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in KRG underlined that “the workshop is an important step for this project and the nation. We are keenly aware of the issues facing our water, particularly those in our region. Groundwater tables are decreasing, ins some areas by 100m. KRG looks forward to engaging in the discussion and has two requests: Firstly, the assistance in developing micro-dams for capturing water for agriculture and multi-purposes in the local areas, including groundwater recharge.

New Aerial Survey of Iraqi Antiquities

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraq, together with UNESCO, has concluded a comprehensive aerial survey of Iraqi heritage destroyed by the Islamic State (IS), paving the way for further cooperation to restore various Iraqi sites, particularly at the 13th-century Assyrian capital of Nimrod.

In mid-May, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini handed over to his Iraqi counterpart, Friad Rwandzi, a 500-page report prepared in coordination with UNESCO that includes the survey data. The report, which focuses on northern Iraq, documents affected archaeological sites before and after their destruction, assessment of the damage and an action plan for their restoration.

Iraq and UNESCO have worked together since 2014 to restore the archaeological sites that have been in IS’ grip, including HatraNimrod and the Mosul Museum. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in November 2016, after the liberation of Nimrod, that her agency was determined to support Iraq in assessing the damage and protecting the remains from further looting and destruction.

UNESCO has indeed been vocal about the need to restore Nimrod, which is located in Ninevah province. In 2010, Nimrod was submitted to the UN body’s tentative list of World Heritage sites. Also known as Kalhu, Nimrod is one of the main archaeological sites from the Assyrian period. Established in the 13th century BC, it later became the second capital of the Assyrian Empire. Its murals and monuments are referenced in literature and scripture, and its clay tablets with cuneiform writing are known worldwide.

Faleh al-Shammari, director of antiquities in Ninevah, told Al-Monitor that the next step will be to form a joint technical committee of Iraqis and UNESCO representatives. “Experts from both sides will oversee a strategic project for the restoration of historical places in Ninevah, based on the aerial survey database,” Shammari said.

Iraqi Marshes could be pulled from World Heritage List

By Hassan al-Shanoun for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi government is committed to keeping the Mesopotamian Marshes on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located in the southern part of the country, the marshes were added to UNESCO’s list in July 2016. Previously listed Iraqi World Heritage sites are the city of Ashur, the city of Hatra, the Erbil Citadel and the city of Samarra.

Although the Iraqi parliament voted to put an end to encroachments against the marshes May 14, many fear the possibility of Iraq’s losing its position on the World Heritage List and being denied the international recognition that would have been of great benefit for the country, especially since previously agreed-upon service and construction programs were not established.

First off, there are concerns about the Water Resources Ministry’s continuing to build settlement islands in the Chibayish marshes, south of Dhi Qar, which UNESCO considers to be a clear violation of the conditions the marshes need to meet in order to stay on the World Heritage List.

In this context, Ajial al-Musawi, the chairman of the Committee on Tourism and Antiquities in Dhi Qar’s provincial council, told Al-Monitor over the phone that UNESCO’s objection is to the nature of the mechanisms used in building these islands in the marshes since they pose a direct threat to biodiversity in the area.

Musawi said, “The government’s reluctance to implement the programs it promised worries us, and we fear the marshes would lose the chance to join the World Heritage List for good, especially since a UNESCO delegation is scheduled to visit us in the coming months.”

UNESCO welcomes Liberation of Hatra

UNESCO Director-General welcomes the liberation of Hatra and will send Emergency Assessment mission “as soon as possible”

Following several reports and discussions with the Iraqi authorities, UNESCO has confirmed the liberation of the archeological site of Hatra, located in the Governorate of Nineveh in Iraq.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has reiterated her support to the government and people of Iraq and expressed the readiness of UNESCO to help protect and promote Iraqi heritage as a force for national cohesion, peace and recovery for the country.

“The liberation of the ancient city of Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site, is good news for Iraq and beyond. For two years, Hatra has been one of the symbols of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East. The destruction and looting of the remains of the capital of the first Arab Kingdom, is an immense loss for the Iraqi people and the world. Its liberation marks a positive turning point and paves the way for ensuring its protection and conservation,” declared the Director-General.

“Violent extremists know the power of heritage to unite, to bring people together and provide them with pride, confidence and dignity – this is why they target and destroy heritage. The protection of heritage has become more than a cultural issue – it is also a security issue, and this is the spirit of the recent resolution 2347 adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on 24 March, putting culture at the heart of international efforts to build peace” said Irina Bokova.

“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, and UNESCO will do everything in its power to ensure these crimes do not go unpunished. I call on all parties to preserve this unique heritage as an essential condition for peace and the future of the region,” Ms. Bokova added.

Capacity Building Support for National Water Sector

UNESCO & EU launching the second module of Capacity Building Support for the National Water Sector of Iraq

In the framework of joint efforts towards supporting the Iraqi government in overcoming the devastating impact of water shortage, UNESCO and the European Union (EU) have initiated the Capacity Building project component under phase II of the water sector flagship-intervention “Advanced Survey of Hydrogeological Resources in Iraq” (ASHRI-2), a pioneering initiative aiming to improve national capacities in the exploration, administration and integrated management of groundwater resources, and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of public planning, as well as informed policy making in the National Water Sector.

Since its launch in November 2013, ASHRI-2 has delivered critical data, information and knowledge management tools on the groundwater conditions in Iraq. Based on internationally applied Best Practices, ASHRI-2 has deployed state-of-the-art methodologies and techniques in geo-scientific assessment, cartography and IT-based documentation supporting strategic groundwater resources’ management.

Implemented by UNESCO Office for Iraq, with the main collaboration of the Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad (MoWR) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (MoAWR) of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the project now focuses on skills advancement and tailored On-the-Job-Training of water sector staff on standard operating procedures, geo-scientific data collection and processing, mapping, surveying and prognostic scenario analysis underscoring the overall sustainability of technical assistance provided for the empowerment of the water sector administration.

“We are proud that ASHRI-2 has provided Iraq with a great wealth of new groundwater data and modern information management tools, forming the geo-scientific backbone for a comprehensive management system on national groundwater resources in Iraq”, said the Advisor to the Minister and Director-General at the MoWR in Baghdad, Mr. Dhafer Abdullah Hussain.

“The newly provided data on groundwater resources, and technical capacities developed in sustainable groundwater management, strongly support our efforts to cope with a progressively increasing pressure and stress on scarce and thus precious national water resources, being impacted by steadily growing sector demand, and water allocations safeguarding basic services’ delivery within the context of IDPs and the prevailing humanitarian crisis in our region”, stated the General Director of Water Resources, MoAWR, KRG, Mr. Mohammad Amin Faris.