We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

United Nations Extraterritorial Heritage Sites

Returning most major ancient artifacts to their countries of origin can be accomplished. With revenue sharing super museums with embassy type protection in international UN zones. 

The increasing wave of transnational requests to return invaluable pieces of history to their general geographic area opens up interesting opportunities for:

1) Novel tourist revenue sharing transnational mechanisms

2) Dramatically raising the power of UNESCO in its mission area of building global education and heritage preservation

3) General international cooperation in anthropology, archaeology, history, and architecture.

Imagine if most pieces of ancient Egyptian architecture and artifacts scattered in major (primarily Western) museums around the globe could be pulled into a sort of "mega" museum in Egypt. A truly immersive slice of an ancient world could thus be recreated with entire city blocks of a time long gone stuffed with artifacts. Considering the amount of region specific columns, building pieces, and statues that were looted from areas under former Ottoman, Chinese, Indian, etc control, entire Disney World type historical amusement tourist parks can be constructed. Rather than one giant entity like British Museum containing pieces of ancient Greece, India, or Egypt, it can contain all the most relevant pieces of historical Britain while super museums in Rome, Cairo, India, Athens can be fully stocked with their respective artifacts and expanded to contain much more.

Obvious major questions arise:

1) Why would countries ever part with artifacts that were acquired through either expensive archaeological efforts of their wealthy citizens, by conquest, or through superior geopolitical position?

2) Isn't it very dangerous to have all the eggs in one basket in terms of having all the biggest artifacts and pieces in one city in the case of man made or natural disaster?

3) On what grounds do we empower a specific nation state with custodial powers and allow it to potentially abuse the new monopoly on ancient physical history?

This is where UNESCO comes in. The World Heritage Convention currently provides for a reactive defense of cultural sites but UNESCO can flip that to become proactive creator of new heritage sites of sufficient transnational importance. Just as with proposals to make Jerusalem an international city, certain areas can become designated to become international heritage sites with extraterritorial protections of the entire 193 member body of the United Nations. In this manner, the host country, whether Italy, Greece, or Egypt can enjoy the full benefits of tourist traffic flying to its airports to get to the museum within its national borders while having the museum under long term control and protection of the international community. More mundane concerns of protecting the super museums from natural or man made catastrophe can be resolved with having the museums some ways away from major cities.

The powers holding on to these artifacts currently can be financially compensated with a proportional slice (based on amount of their contributed "sacrifice" of returning the loot) of the ticket sale revenue from the new international super museum complexes. Prominent countries holding the most amount of ancient history also happen to be on the UN security council. What was taken from areas such as the one under former Ottoman control can now be given back under an authoritative UN umbrella.

UN bureaucrats should always be on the look out on how to expand the powers of their organization. Focus on soft issue such as creation of new postmodern heritage sites allows precedent setting extraterritorial space building action that in the future can be utilized for more serious global projects involving energy, agriculture, and even industry. Creation of a giant Egyptian amusement park allows a foot in the door towards giving UN more teeth. Additionally, globe trotting professions like anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, etc can be provided with new streamlined travel and operational perks. An embryonic class of global citizenry does not necessarily need to wear helmets or always carry guns.

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