ICCROM has participated in a series of conferences and seminars on African heritage over the months of May and June 2016. These events, which took place in Tanzania and South Africa, have served as an occasion for ICCROM to reflect on its longstanding engagement in Africa, strengthen links to its network of African professionals, and renew its strategic commitment to the region, a commitment which builds on past successes such as the PREMA and AFRICA 2009 programmes.

In Arusha, Tanzania, from 31 May to 4 June 2016, the Africa Unit of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre organized a conference entitled “World Heritage: Driver of Sustainable Development” in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania on the conservation and sustainability development of World Heritage in Africa. The event was opened on 31 May by the Hon. Kassim Majaliwa Majaliwa, Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The conference brought together over 100 stakeholders to raise awareness and knowledge on heritage conservation and sustainable development. Working groups discussed inclusive social and economic development, environmental sustainability, and the role that cultural heritage can play in the sustainable development process.

Key issues that emerged included the need to better integrate traditional management systems into the overall management of World Heritage properties, the importance of involving indigenous people and local communities in the development process, and the role that heritage can play in conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery.

The Ngorongoro Declaration was approved by the conference with recommendations to the international community, African States Parties, development partners, the World Heritage system, and other key stakeholders for the development of mechanisms to ensure that heritage is a driver for sustainable development in the region.

ICCROM, as an Advisory Body to the World Heritage Committee, was a member of the Task Force that planned the conference. Joseph King, Unit Director of the Sites Unit at ICCROM, acted as the co-rapporteur for the conference along with Mine Pabari of IUCN. Terry Little, Senior Consultant to the Director General, made a presentation on ICCROM and the Future of Africa’s Past: a New Strategy for Africa.

The Arusha conference provided an occasion for ICCROM to host an alumni event that brought together over 30 professionals with past associations with ICCROM programmes in the region, including PREMA, AFRICA 2009, and other ICCROM courses and activities. The year 2016 marks 30 years since the launch of ICCROM’s PREMA programme (Preventive Conservation in African Museums), for which ICCROM mobilized funding and technical support towards the conservation and use of Africa’s material heritage. The programme transformed the African heritage landscape and created a new generation of African museum professionals. PREMA changed ICCROM’s approach towards training and led to the creation of a similar programme in 1998, entitled AFRICA 2009, which targeted the conservation of Africa’s immovable heritage.

ICCROM had also participated in two other touchstone activities earlier in May. The “African World Heritage… Thinking Ahead” seminar marked the tenth anniversary of The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and was held from 3 – 4 May at the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa World Heritage property. The event brought together heritage professionals, ambassadors, community representatives, scholars and heritage ministers. The seminar was opened by Hon. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa. It provided AWHF and its stakeholders with the opportunity to reflect on achievements and future challenges, along with strategies for addressing them.

Participants reflected on the past and future of African World Heritage with a focus on harmonizing conservation and development, managing the effects of climate change and armed conflict, improving community engagement, and promoting capacity building. Joseph King delivered one of the keynote addresses of the seminar, entitled Capacity Building: Experiences and Perspectives in Africa. The final document of the meeting provided a number of recommendations to guide the African heritage community in future conservation efforts in these key areas.

As part of the ten-year anniversary celebrations of the AWHC, on 5 May 2016, also celebrated as African World Heritage Day, the AWHF held a gala dinner celebrating the contributions of a number of actors who have helped to build capacity in the region. The AWHF recognized AFRICA 2009 as one of the most successful capacity-building programmes on the continent and gave awards to three professionals for the important roles they played in the programme. Joseph King received an award in recognition for his role in setting up the programme in collaboration with UNESCO and CRATerre-ENSAG and in facilitating the involvement and empowerment of African professionals in the management of the programme. George Okello Abungu, the first Chairperson of the Steering Committee, and Lazare Eloundou-Assomo, Director of the UNESCO Office in Bamako, Mali, also received awards and recognition from the AWHF for their roles in AFRICA 2009.

Three States Parties, Kenya, Namibia and Côte d’Ivoire, were furthermore given awards for their work in ensuring a greater representation of African properties on the World Heritage List. The founding Board Members of the AWHF, for their part, received awards for their contribution to the creation and stewardship of the Fund.

ICCROM, with the support of its 135 Member States, is now looking to build on these past experiences and work with African institutions and individuals to create a new, innovative and inclusive programme to further increase the capacity of the heritage community in Africa to better safeguard and care for the invaluable heritage of the continent. The process involves a review of the impact of previous experiences, a scan of current issues, challenges and opportunities and a look towards the future. The aim is to ensure that the new programme will tackle heritage conservation in the larger framework of economic, social, cultural and environmental changes.

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