April 27, 2022 - The UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut organized a workshop today, at the Lebanese National Library, on the reconstruction of Beirut following the port blasts, under UNESCO's flagship initiative "LiBeirut", with key players from all fields and the participation of the Minister of Culture, Judge Muhammad Al-Murtada and the Governor of Beirut Judge Marwan Abboud. The workshop presented the progress accomplished concerning the reconstruction in the damaged areas and a study and analysis of the urban heritage of the city. The participants also discussed the needs, as well as solutions or recommendations to develop an action plan, with interventions from a representative of the Army Commander-in-chief, the Head of the Order of Engineers and Architects Nasser Yassin, the Head of the Municipality of Beirut Jamal Itani, and the Director General of Antiquities Sarkis Khoury, as well as authorized experts.
According to the Transitional Law 194, the Ministry of Culture - the Directorate General of Antiquities is responsible to prepare an action plan to protect and rehabilitate the affected urban areas, during the period specified for the Transitional Law, which is two years, expected to end by October 2022. This action plan, which is being developed with UNESCO since the explosions, is based on a comprehensive analysis and mapping of the historical urban fabric, the establishment of criteria for the inclusion of urban heritage- especially modern heritage and public spaces- as well as policies for heritage preservation and management, transportation, green spaces and landscaping, and the integration of social and economic dimensions.
The Minister of Culture, Judge Muhammad Al-Murtada, stressed that "the Ministry of Culture will continue to protect the urban heritage of Beirut and other cities and regions in Lebanon," warning "in Lebanon often, evil awaits us to exploit our crises and create greater calamities". He highlighted "the ministry's partnership with UNESCO, the latter being characterized by capacity, clean intentions, transparency, and most importantly, its keenness to help Lebanon in its quest to preserve its heritage and archaeological heritage."
As for the Governor of Beirut, Judge Marwan Abboud, he presented the work modalities that he followed since the explosions of August 4, 2020, and the meetings he held with every official and party concerned with heritage buildings, in addition to associations and organizations, with the main focus to preserve the urban fabric of Beirut and its cultural heritage.
From her side, Costanza Farina, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut, noted that “UNESCO continues to support Lebanon in its effort to Build Forward Better, which can only be accomplished when we work together towards this common goal and pool our resources and expertise. To that end, the action plan is directly connected to Lebanon’s Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework (3RF). She added: “The project that UNESCO implemented with Beirut Urban Lab between July and November 2021, defined and set the criteria for identifying modern urban heritage within a framework of the identified values and attributes, and accordingly mapped the modern urban heritage of a substantial part of the damaged areas. This mapping project provides a clearer view of the heritage of the area on which today’s discussions shall be based to achieve the desired action plan, which is being designed and formulated by Institut Paris Region on behalf of UNESCO, with the support of a local team of experts.”
The workshop concluded with talks that brought the participants together in working groups, through which they presented their vision of the action plan, as well as problems and solutions.
The explosions of 4 August 2020 in the port of Beirut widely damaged the urban core, over a widespread extension representing almost one third of the city, with damages across densely populated and historic urban areas. The blast also affected the cultural economy that was located mainly in these heritage precincts.
Li Beirut is an international flagship initiative launched from Beirut by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on August 27, 2020, in the aftermath of the port explosions, to support the rehabilitation of schools and educational institutions, historic heritage buildings, museums, galleries, and the creative industry, all of which suffered significant damage in the deadly explosions.