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Redefining humanity through its heritage : the incorporation of cultural protection into peacekeeping mandates

Abstract : In June 2012, the terrorist group Ansar Dine occupied the northern part of Mali. Many historical and cultural sites were destroyed and pillaged. On 23 April 2015, the UN Security Council entrusted MINUSMA, its peacekeeping mission in Mali, with ‘assist[ing] the transitional authorities of Mali, as necessary and feasible, in protecting from attack the cultural and historical sites in Mali, in collaboration with UNESCO’. However, the ‘cultural and historical sites’ rehabilitated and rebuilt by the ‘Environment and Culture’ unit of this peacekeeping operations were first and foremost the sites registered on the World Heritage list, namely the Timbuktu mausoleums. In 2015 the ISIS terrorist group systematically destroyed Iraqi and Syrian World Heritage sites and the cultural heritage protection work carried out by MINUSMA in this same period became a symbol of the defence of humanity in the face of inhumanity, of civilisation in the face of barbarism.Based on participant observation at UNESCO and in the UN Department of Peace Operations (DPO, formerly known as DPKO), on interviews with UN staff members at the UN Headquarters and on the ground, and on archival work, this thesis aims to explain how a local and stand-alone initiative like cultural heritage protection by MINUSMA could, in a crisis context, become central to an international discourse of universalism. In order to impose MINUSMA as a precedent for future peace operations, three actors (UNESCO, its Director-General and some of its member-states’) evoked a vision of humanity as rooted in a common heritage. They did so by identifying the perpetrators of the destruction (through a criminalisation process) and its victims (through a victimisation process), but also its defenders (through a heroisation process).
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Submitted on : Friday, September 2, 2022 - 11:21:02 AM
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  • HAL Id : tel-03767761, version 1



Mathilde Leloup. Redefining humanity through its heritage : the incorporation of cultural protection into peacekeeping mandates. Political science. Institut d'études politiques de Paris - Sciences Po, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019IEPP0059⟩. ⟨tel-03767761⟩



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