The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC) would like to pay tribute to our Argentinean member Museo Sitio de Memoria ESMA, located at the Former Navy School of Mechanics site (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, as it became, on September 19, 2023, the first ever World Heritage Site to be nominated for its outstanding universal value as a Site Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts and other negative and divisive memories.
Museo Sitio de Memoria ESMA was created in 2019 from civil society demands and efforts to reimagine one of the most notorious former clandestine sites of detention, torture and extermination of Argentina and the region in the 1970s and 1980s, a period many Latin American countries experienced civil-military dictatorships, into a place to learn about this difficult past and promote a culture human rights for future generations. As stated by Argentina’s Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla Corti, “this international recognition constitutes a strong response to those who deny or seek to downplay state terrorism and the crimes of the last civil-military dictatorship.”
The incorporation of Sites Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts and other negative and divisive memories in the World Heritage List sparked lengthy debates within UNESCO for the last years, with concerted efforts by ICSC and many other parties to ensure a positive outcome. ESMA’s nomination is extremely important for Sites of Conscience globally, as it represents a recognition that memorial sites connected to human suffering can be of outstanding universal value for their role in healing, peace building and non-repetition.