African local governments commit to preserving the continent’s cultural heritage

On April 18 and 19, 2019 in Rabat (Morocco), the African Local Government Academy (ALGA) of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO) and the city of Rabat, celebrated the International Day of Monuments and Sites of the World Cultural Heritage.

Two activities punctuated this celebration, namely: the 2nd International Conference under the theme: ” Role and Responsibility of Local and Subnational Governments in the Preservation and Valorization of Cultural Heritage,” held on April 18, 2019 at ISESCO Headquarters and the meeting on the presentation of strategies of the city of Rabat in terms of protection and valorization of Cultural Heritage, organized on April 19, 2019 at the Headquarters of the Communal Council for the city of Rabat.

These actions were organized in partnership and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Ministry of National Spatial Planning, Urban Planning, Housing and Urban Policy, ICOMOS-Morocco, UNESCO and the Foundation Romualdo Del Bianco (Italy).

At the conference’s opening session, addresses were delivered by Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of ISESCO, read out on his behalf by Dr Amina Al Hajri, Deputy Director General; Mr Mohamed El Aaraj, Minister of Culture and Communication of the Kingdom of Morocco, delivered on his behalf by the General Secretary of the Ministry; Ms Golda El Khouri, Director of the UNESCO Office in Rabat; the Representative of UN-Women Multi-Country Office for the Maghreb; Mr Mohamed Saddiki, Mayor of Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco; and Mr Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.

The Mayor of Rabat expressed his solidarity with the city of Paris following the recent fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as is the case for the 9 heritage sites of the city of Rabat.

In his address, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa emphasized that the organization of this second international conference testified to the, “common will to see the theme of tangible and intangible heritage included in local development policies. Our cultural heritage reflects the identity of our territory and connects the population to its past. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 presents an Africa with a common heritage. The tangible and intangible heritage constitutes the potential of any territory and any population. Only then can we achieve target 4 of SDG 11 that calls on strengthening efforts to protect and preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage.” He concluded by stating that culture is the first thing that people start their lives with and political authorities were wrong not to put culture at the heart of development policies.

A hundred participants from 20 countries were treated to an inaugural conference on the “Life beyond tourism” movement.  They then continued with this theme in plenary sessions where they looked at the issue of cultural heritage at the local level.

Mr. Paolo Del Bianco, President of the Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation, presented the vision of the “Life beyond tourism” concept, which aims to ensure that tourism triggers a real synergy in promoting historical heritage and is a motor for intercultural exchange. Local and subnational governments have the opportunity to train their staff in this concept through the training of trainers, organized annually by the Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation in partnership with the African Local Government Academy (ALGA) of UCLG Africa.

Culture, the 4th pillar of sustainable development

The first plenary session focused on, “Protecting and Promoting Cultural Heritage: a multi-stakeholder and multi-level issue of governance.” The session was chaired by, Mr. Majid Batambuze, President of the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda (UAAU) and Mayor of Jinja.

The presentation of the results and recommendations of the World 2016 UNESCO report on “Culture and sustainable urban development”, was made by Mr. Karim Hendili, Culture Program Specialist at the Multi-country Office of UNESCO. He welcomed the positioning of the global organization of local governments, UCLG, which has made culture the fourth pillar of sustainable development. The report shows that very few countries have legislation on the management of urban heritage.

This session was also marked by the presentation of the program for the sustainable use of the ksours (hamlets only built with clay, without lime for binding) and kasbahs (citadels of Berber architecture) as a pillar for the safeguarding of a threatened national heritage in Morocco. The country has nearly 4,000 kasbahs dating back to the 6th century of which, only one quarter is used. This program launched by the Moroccan government aims first and foremost at improving the living conditions of the population of these sites which has about 1 million inhabitants. The program also aims at providing Morocco with an integrated strategy for the promotion of the ksours and kasbahs by 2050.

The sharing of experiences from other African countries and the Arab world fueled the debates, particularly during the second session, which focused on “Protecting and valuing the cultural heritage at the local level: Sharing African local best practices.” This is the case, for example, of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso where the celebration of funerals is an important part of people’s lives and funeral ceremonies are marked by the wearing of traditional masks. These masks are assets for tourism and the municipality plans to develop exhibitions in the airport of the cultural capital of Burkina. In Tunisia, the city of La Goulette is revitalizing its main cultural events after years of lethargy following the revolution of 2011. This is particularly the case for the celebration of Victory Day every June 1, in the city where Habib Bourguiba, the first President of the Tunisian Republic, made his triumphant entry;;of the Fish Festival, which will resume (after 8 years absence); and of Madonna Day, every August 15.

The various presentations made it possible to see the richness of the Cultural Heritage in Africa and in the Arab-Muslim world with the cases of the Commune of Abobo in Côte d’Ivoire, the City of Bamako in Mali, the City of Lagos in Nigeria, and the cities of El Jadida, Azemmour and Marrakech in Morocco.



Presentations and discussions also made it possible to reveal the state of general degradation and peril that characterizes cultural heritage in Africa. Participants made the following key recommendations:

– The need to put in place mechanisms to monitor the implementation of recommendations made at the level of international organizations, such as UNESCO and ISESCO;

– The need to create frameworks like this conference for a better sharing of expertise and experiences between countries and between local authorities in Africa and in the Arab world ;

– The need to maintain strong advocacy with the states to strengthen the role and skills of local and subnational governments in the management of culture and heritage;

– Promotion of the Agenda 21 for Culture in local and subnational governments;

– Include training and capacity building in priority actions to address key challenges;

– Give preference to the use of local expertise to keep the authenticity of the works that have been produced;

– Integrate the importance of culture into educational programs;

– Strengthen the role of the media in promoting culture;

– The creation of traditional arts schools to preserve and transmit local traditional knowledge.

The second day of the meeting allowed the Rabat City Council to present its strategies for the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage. Attending the meeting, Mrs. Fatna El Khiel, State Secretary at the Ministry of Planning of the National Territory, welcomed the organization of this second edition of the international conference on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of Monuments and Sites of World Cultural Heritage. The State Secretary also called for the sustainability of the initiative.  We hope that this conference will become an annual meeting gathering the African cities and the Arab world around the sharing of experience. I hope that next year we shall be able to organize this ceremony in one of the kasbah in the process of being renovated to show what the Ministry of Planning of the National territory is doing. ”

The participants then visited six places of the heritage of the city of Rabat: the Oudayas, the Old Medina, the Chellah, the Bouregreg Marina, and Avenue Mohammed V.

Photos Album available here. 

Download the press release. 

Concept note. 



About :

ISESCO : The Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO) was established in May 1979 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Its headquarters are based in Rabat (Morocco). Website :

UCLG Africa : is the umbrella organization of the local governments of Africa whose founding congress took place in the city of Tshwane, South Africa, in May 2005. UCLG Africa has its headquarters in the city of Rabat (Morocco) since January 2008. It is the African chapter of the world organization United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). Website :