UNESCO welcomes this ICOMOS Heritage at Risk publication most warmly. It highlights the common goal and the excellent co-operation of the two organisations to promote the protection of cultural heritage around the world. This particular project is significant in view of its capacity to expose the dangers facing heritage in various countries of the world and promote practical measures to avert or at least allay them. It should be regarded as a complement to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger in that this challenge is being faced by most countries to some degree and not only those in which it assumes gigantic proportions. Communities constantly have to face the loss of their heritage through factors as diverse as warfare, the harmful effects of weather, atmospheric pollution, earthquakes, development projects and financial constraints. Many heritage buildings and sites are deteriorating through simple neglect. If this continues, the loss could well be as catastrophic as that caused by earthquakes, for instance. Recent major disasters include the earthquake in Gujarat (India) and the destruction of the old city of Dubrovnik (Croatia) and of the Mostar bridge (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Particularly distressing was the deliberate destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, those jewels of Ghandaran art in Afghanistan, in spite of worldwide protest and widespread opposition from the highest religious authorities of Islam. No effort should be spared to save the Afghan cultural heritage while taking every possible step to safeguard other treasures of the country's non-Islamic heritage.

I am confident that this ICOMOS initiative will help the cause of Heritage at Risk in no uncertain manner, utilising as it does approaches that include theory, practice and education on an international scale. On behalf of UNESCO, I encourage not only those actively involved with heritage protection, but also communities and individuals to support this programme and actively implement proactive approaches to prevent the loss of our heritage.

Mounir Bouchenaki
Assistant Director - General for Culture