Since the middle of April 2023, the International Council of Museums has been making a concerted effort to gather verified information about the situation in Sudan.
ICOM deplores the significant humanitarian consequences that the conflict has already had on the population, including the loss of life and the forced displacement of individuals. ICOM also expresses its deep concern about the implications of the increased fighting for the safety and security of museum professionals, museum collections and cultural heritage in the country. Indeed, ‘Significant damages’ have already been reported by experts and institutions such as the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (see the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab Rapid Report). In light of these difficult circumstances, some museum directors in Sudan have already launched calls for help for museums curators who have remained in Sudan and who are currently in need of support.
Some ICOM Committees in the region, such as ICOM ARAB and ICOM Egypt, have already expressed solidarity with the Sudanese people and have taken active steps to support Sudanese colleagues both within and outside the country. A recent Emergency workshop and forum was organised by NCAM (National Corporation Antiquities and Museums) and held at the Child Museum in Cairo. The workshop brought together experts and representatives from international cultural institutions and organisations with the aim of identifying current needs and actions in support of national experts in Sudan. In this context, ICOM International Committees such as ICMS and DRMC also offered to make their expertise available for Sudanese colleagues.
Every crisis renders cultural heritage vulnerable, namely to the risks of theft, looting and deliberate – or accidental – destruction. For this reason, ICOM advises all parties of the importance of vigilance with regard to potential increases in the trafficking of cultural objects from Sudan and the region in general. ICOM also condemns all attacks involving museums and recalls the international legal obligations of all national governments to protect moveable cultural heritage under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects. ICOM stands alongside partner organizations such as UNESCO, ICCROM and ICOMOS who have also expressed concerns for the humanitarian impacts of the crisis coupled with risks faced by Sudanese cultural institutions.
ICOM and all of its national and international committees will continue to monitor the situation in the region and will continue to offer support to Sudanese museum professionals and institutions in order to alleviate any potential threats the heritage of Sudan may face. To this aim, any Committee willing to participate in these efforts is welcomed to contact ICOM ARAB, ICOM Egypt or ICOM Heritage Protection Department in ICOM Secretariat.