UNESCO: UN Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization

Topic A: Preserving Endangered Languages

The development of the internet revolutionized global communication, which now links people from around the world through social media, popular culture, and freely accessible information. However, the effectiveness of technology as a vehicle for globalization comes at the cost of endangerment and exclusion of many of the world’s minority languages. English is quickly becoming the universal language, and it dominates many countries’ media and business spheres. Therefore, it is important to protect the accessibility of language education and to use it to advance language protection. In the past, protecting endangered languages was primarily seen as a human rights concern, since the endangerment of languages was usually caused by the persecution of minority language speakers. However, there are also deep connections between language and culture, and the death of a language can have irreversible cultural implications as well. UNESCO must work to determine how and to what extent it should act to protect the thousands of endangered languages around the world.

Topic B: Destruction of Cultural World Heritage Sites in Violent Conflict Zones

Cultural heritage was first considered and protected by the international community following World War II, after which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed the “Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” in 1954. This convention was the first major attempt to protect objects and monuments deemed as cultural heritage under international law. In the midst of violent conflict, whether in the form of officially declared war or terrorism, militants often target symbols of culture and heritage in order to damage the foundations and identity of another culture. Such targeting comes in the form of destroying, altering, or trafficking items of cultural significance and thus weakening the societies from which they came. Most recently, cultural heritage destruction has been a major Daesh tactic, as they have destroyed archaeological sites in Syria, Iraq, and across the Middle East. Furthermore, cases of cultural destruction have also been formally brought to international court systems. In 2012, Malian terrorist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was put on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after destroying important religious sites in Timbuktu. Cultural World Heritage Sites are increasingly being destroyed during times of conflict and with this, UNESCO is tasked with considering methods to preserve what remains of destroyed sites and to protect those under threat.

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