Mosul reconstruction to showcase UNESCO's 'importance'
The United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) wants to use the reconstruction of Mosul as a way to restore its international credibility and revive the multilateral order, its director general said on Monday.
The brutal nine-month fight to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group left Iraq's second city in ruins, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
UNESCO was plunged into crisis a year ago after the United States withdrew from the organization citing "anti-Israel bias".
The move raised questions of the funding of the UN's cultural agency and was a blow to multilateralism.
A year later, Director General Audrey Azoulay seeks to place the reconstruction of Mosul at the centre of efforts to refocus the agency on its fundamental mandate.
"At a time when multilateralism is sometimes being questioned, the objective and magnitude of this initiative shows exactly why an organisation like UNESCO is important," Azoulay told Reuters ahead of a conference in Paris on Mosul.
The UN cultural body is partnering with the Iraqi government and is seeking to place itself as a coordinator for rebuilding some of the city's most cherished landmarks which were destroyed during fighting.
UNESCO is spearheading the restoration of the city's market, two churches, a Yazidi temple and the central library at Mosul university.
Its largest project is restoring the Grand al-Nouri Mosque which was blown by IS militants.
Recent political tensions in Baghdad following elections and unrest in Basra, together with ongoing threats from IS, could hinder the organisation's work.
"We're fully aware of Mosul's specificities and the difficulties on the ground... but it's exactly because the situation is still fragile that we need to act," Azoulay told Reuters.
The Islamic State group swept through a third of Iraq in 2014, seizing Mosul, the largest city in the north, and reaching the vicinity of Baghdad.