Destroyed Mostar Bridge rebuilt with UN aid as symbol of Balkan reconciliation
Flanked by two fortified towers, the single hump-backed Ottoman arch – four metres wide, 30 metres long and constructed of 456 white stone blocks between 1557 and 1566 – collapsed into the waters of the Neretva River after being hit by heavy shells in November 1993 during the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Old Bridge was destroyed for its symbolic value and for this same reason the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) pledged to rebuild it. Just four months after the span’s collapse UNESCO launched an appeal for its reconstruction. Next Friday, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will be in Mostar to represent the UN, in the presence of national leaders from southeastern Europe and other top European political figures, as the chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, Sulejman Tihic, inaugurates the restored structure. “We are present in Mostar in order to breathe fresh life into an exceptional heritage which, after having been used as a target, needs to become a rallying sign, a sign of recognition, the powerful symbol of a plural identity founded on mutual trust,” Mr. Matsuura said in remarks released in advance of the ceremony. In 1998, UNESCO, the World Bank and municipal authorities launched a joint appeal for the reconstruction, which was answered by five donor countries – Croatia, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey – as well as the Council of Europe Development Bank. While the World Bank was responsible for the financial part of the project and the city of Mostar handled the disbursement of the funds, UNESCO’s main task was to ensure the technical and scientific coordination.