Iraq: UNESCO and the European Union extend their partnership for training and job creation in the cultural heritage sector
30 November 2023
UNESCO, the European Union and the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities announce the launch of a new phase of the project “Reviving Mosul and Basra Old Cities”, for an amount of 9 million euros. It will result in socio-economic development actions through safeguarding and rehabilitation of cultural heritage from 2023 to 2027.
This new phase, funded by the European Union, will concentrate on supporting two key areas: youth employment and enhancing the capacity of institutions and stakeholders, both public and private, engaged in the rehabilitation and protection of cultural heritage assets.
Three hundred fifty Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TEVT) participants will receive training with a focus on construction trades. Additionally, technicians from government entities will undergo mentoring in architectural conservation and restoration disciplines, encompassing both project design and works supervision.
This intensive series of courses will involve hands-on experience in pilot projects within selected historic districts, under the supervision of UNESCO: the rehabilitation of a significant number of heritage houses in Mosul and Basra.
Strengthen the academic heritage sector
UNESCO will also intervene in the academic field, to support the training of new generations of heritage professionals. To this end, the organization will facilitate the establishment of a new program focused on conservation and preservation, through a collaborative effort between the Northern Technical University (NTU) in Mosul, the Southern Technical University (STU) in Basra, and an external international university specializing in heritage conservation.
Comprehensive training for local faculty and students will include workshops conducted by external university experts. These sessions will cover advanced techniques in heritage building reconstruction, spanning architectural design, structural analysis, material conservation, and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship. They will be directed towards the restoration and reconstruction of heritage buildings in Mosul and Basra.
Furthermore, the initiative will encompass, the implementation of 10 events focused on social cohesion, awareness raising, and culture, as well as the support of 8 cooperatives, businesses, startups, or social enterprises to support Iraqi culture and creative industries as part of the project's broader objectives.
Give Iraqi institutions and professionals the keys to lead future reconstructions
Through all these actions, UNESCO will transmit to Iraqi institutions and professionals the experience and good practices acquired from the numerous projects led by the organization in Mosul and Basra during the previous phases of their partnership.
Iraqi institutions and professionals will thus have all the keys in hand to directly plan and lead the next stages of urban reconstruction, as well as the long-term conservation, management, and restoration of heritage.
During an event held at the Iraqi National Museum on November 29, 2023, Dr. Laith Hussein, the Head of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq, conveyed his appreciation, remarking, "The bilateral collaboration with partners such as UNESCO, the European Union, and the Ministry of Culture has yielded tangible positive results. These results represent an opportunity for the revival of ancient cities through the reconstruction and rehabilitation of historic buildings, the revitalization of cultural life. This is seen as a genuine opportunity for youth employment and the capacity-building of institutions to preserve the cultural heritage in two historic cities like Mosul and Basra."
H.E. Thomas Seiler, the Ambassador of the European Union to Iraq, emphasized the significance of the "Reviving Mosul and Basra Old Cities project," stating, "This project holds great importance for the EU's support in Iraq. Its unique concept, blending infrastructure restructuring, job creation, and cultural preservation, sets it apart."
Mr. Paolo Fontani, the Representative and Director of UNESCO Iraq Office, expressed gratitude to the EU and the Ministry of Culture for their support. He underscored the successful achievements resulting from the collaborative efforts of all partners during the previous phases of the project.
"UNESCO takes great pride in this partnership and is fully committed to ensuring the successful implementation of Phase III over the coming years for the benefit of the people of Iraq," he affirmed.
UNESCO thanks all its local, national, and international partners, whose support was very useful in implementing these actions, mainly the Ministry of Culture, the State Borad of Antiquities and Heritage, the Governorates of Nineveh and Basra, city municipalities, Sunni and Chirstian Waqfs, and CSOs, as well as IOM, UN Habitat and ICCROM. UNESCO also thanks the many inhabitants of Mosul and Basra involved in these projects.
Achievement of the first two pashes of the project so far: 4,800 jobs created, 1,500 people graduated
During the Phase I and II of the project (2019-23) remarkable achievements were made by UNESCO and its partners in the Old City of Mosul, as the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 124 heritage houses, including 2 palatial houses, the reconstruction of the primary El Ekhlas School, and the infrastructure upgrading of streets and alleys (electrical, sewage, water networks and surfacing). In partnership with UN Habitat, a Recovery Plan for Mosul was also drafted and Technical Assistance on Housing, Land and Property issues to house owners of the Old City provided.
In the Old City of Basra, UNESCO rehabilitated 11 Shanasheel style heritage houses that are owned by the Governorate of Basra, three of them are large palatial houses used by official entities: the Culture Palace, the Writers’ Association, and the Association of Plastic Artists. In addition, the project included the reconstruction of a section of the Al Ashar Canal located in the Old City and the rehabilitation of 8 bridges.
These actions in Mosul and Basra have resulted in the creation of more than 4,900 jobs and 1568 person received diploma training ensuring them long-term professional opportunities. In addition, 79 craftsmen in Mosul befitted from specialised training on traditional construction techniques with support from ICCROM, so that traditional Iraqi skills and knowledge continue to be transmitted to new generations.
Support also provided for the revival of cultural life
Thanks to the EU support during the Phase I and II of the project, UNESCO and its partners have also engaged in a comprehensive plan to revive cultural life and cultural institutions. To support the revival of traditional music in Mosul, UNESCO implemented tailored programmes: 24 musicians were trained, and 4 music ensembles were formed and received grant for touring in Iraq. A new milestone was marked in March 2022 through "Mosul Traditional Music Festival", the first event of its kind since the Liberation. Given its success a second edition of the festival was organized in September 2023 in partnership with Goethe Institute.
A Creative Space was created to provide space for exhibition, training, and cultural activities. A Film Lab was established at the Institute of Fine Arts of Mosul and 20 students were trained and got hands-on experience on the fundamental aspects of a cinema production and produced short movies that were shown to the public, including in national and international festivals. In addition, in partnership with IOM in phase II of the project 197 SME businesses in the field of culture and creative industries received grants through the EDF-Culture program in Mosul, Basra and Thi-Qar.