‘Cultural heritage is a fundamental right and its destruction and degradation are violations of the constitution of human life. People’s lives and ways of existence are embodied in their heritage including in historic buildings and archaeology, artefacts, archives, shrines and places of worship that they and their descendants have bought into being. The undermining of the cultural environment in which people live in war and conflict, as well as in more stable times, erodes human capacity to realise dignified and sustainable lives. Destroyed infrastructures undermine human dignity and the fabric of society. Respect and promotion of human dignity should thus be a central pillar of heritage for peace work and central to the preparation of a comprehensive approach to cultural heritage within the EU.’
— from The role of the EU in the protection of cultural heritage in conflict & post-conflict contexts in the Middle East
Report written by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), and financed by the European External Action Service (EEAS), October 2020
Stakeholders working with cultural heritage, political negotiation and peace-building have welcomed the initiative presented in November 2020 by Spain´s Ambassador-at-large for Mediation and Intercultural Dialogue at the EEAS/UNESCO Conference. An international conference will be held at the end of September in Toledo to launch an international platform that will promote projects in the fields of cultural heritage and conflict resolution, supported by the Junta de Castilla la Mancha and other regional institutions as well as the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Factum Foundation is proud to join the Centro Internacional Toledo para la Paz (CITpax) and other international partners in this ambitious initiative. We believe that the inclusion of Cultural Heritage recording as a tool in conflict resolution represents a significant change in the European Union’s approach to the function and value of cultural heritage. It can become a key instrument in the quest for conflict prevention and resolution, as stated in the Council Conclusions adopted on 7th December 2020.
The Toledo Conference will be held to discuss and promote the European Union’s new policy on heritage documentation as part of conflict resolution and demonstrate how cultural heritage can be a valuable tool, not only to change attitudes between actors in conflicts, shifting the emotional religious, and intellectual emphasis, but also enabling mediators and practitioners to achieve more efficient and measurable results.
Transferring skills and technology, one of Factum Foundation’s core missions, places the emphasis on local responsibility and brings with it new skills and new types of employment. Digitising the materiality of tangible heritage and the ephemeral nature of intangible heritage is fundamental to preserving culture and enabling it to be shared in diverse forms, stimulating interest and building bridges between different groups and communities. The training and the transfer of both skills and technologies to local communities can become a peace-building tool, assisting preservation, creating a local economy, and sharing narratives with a global audience.
The support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Junta de Castilla La Mancha, Diputación Provincial, Ayuntamiento de Toledo and Universidad de Castilla La Mancha demonstrate the clear commitment of Spanish institutions to make the Toledo Network an international hub for public and private organisations, to work together and acknowledge the importance of culture as a direct means of communication that can help establish dialogue and understand difference, of which Toledo is a powerful symbol.
Our involvement in the Toledo Network, proposing solutions to demonstrate the critical role of cultural heritage in mediation, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution, underscores Factum Foundation’s continued alignment with the European Union’s new policy on heritage documentation as a tool for conflict resolution. For too long Cultural Heritage has been associated with leisure and tourism. The move by the EU to use it within the sphere of conflict prevention and resolution places an emphasis on communication.
Toledo Workshop on Artificial Intelligence, Technological Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution
From the 18th-19th June 2021, a symposium was held to discuss the use and application of advanced technologies in conflict and peacebuilding contexts. Organised by the Instituto de Resolución de Conflictos de la Universidad de Castilla la Mancha (UCLM) and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in collaboration with the Factum Foundation, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CITPax, the symposium called upon field experts, AI experts, diplomats, and academics from Spain and beyond to offer insight into the advancement of technology and its potential use for application in the field of mediation.
This symposium provided a platform for diplomats, academics, private sector individuals, preservation specialists and mediators to assemble and discuss their respective areas of research to address both the negative side of machine learning and AI applied in conflict situations as well as the tools facilitating peacebuilding processes, assisting in developing deeper understanding.
From the discussions held, the participants to the symposium established the ‘Toledo Declaration’, outlining eleven guidelines to form a European Initiative for ‘Technology diplomacy and Artificial Intelligence for conflict prevention and mediation’ endorsed by many partners including: Michael Keating (Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace), Adam Lowe (Founder of the Factum Foundation), Ramon Blecua (Ambassador at Large for Mediation and Intercultural Dialogue), Carmelo Angulo (Angulo Barturen Diplomacia Corporativa), Asunción Gómez (VP Research at UPM) and Sultan Barakat (Director at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Doha Institute) among others.
The Toledo Declaration will work as a foundation for the September Conference, held to discuss the role of cultural heritage in conflict resolution, in keeping with the EU council’s new stance in recognising the importance of Cultural Heritage in Conflicts and Crisis (Conclusion 9837/21, 21st June 2021).