On the occasion of the celebration on 18 April of every year by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) of the International Day of Monuments and Sites of the World Cultural Heritage, whose inception was approved by the 22nd Conference General Meeting of UNESCO in 1983, within the framework of the Strategic Partnership between United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) and the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO) and the training offer of College of African Local Government Academy (ALGA) of UCLG-Africa dedicated to “Promoting Culture and Heritage in African Local and Regional Governments,” an International Conference was organized on Wednesday 18 April 2018 at the Headquarters of ISESCO in Rabat (Morocco), on the topic: “Protecting Cultural Heritage through a Participatory and Inclusive Governance for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The meeting was held in partnership with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication of Morocco, ISESCO, the UNESCO Office in Rabat and ICOMOS, the Association of Regions of Morocco (ARM), the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Municipal Councils (AMPCC), the Mediterranean Network of Medinas and Heritage Development (RMM&DP), UCLG and the European Commission.
It should be recalled that out of the 1052 World Heritage sites listed by UNESCO, up till 2016, barely 90 are located in Africa at a time when there are almost 500 for only the European continent. This can be explained in particular by several weaknesses in the promotion of cultural heritage in many African states, resulting into forms of governance and management that do not contribute to ensuring a real protection, enhancement and promotion of the rich heritage that characterizes this Continent. The fragility of cultural policies and strategies in Africa is even a serious threat to the protection of this wealth.
Based on the roles and responsibilities of the Local and Regional Governments in terms of public governance as well as territorial and local development, UCLG Africa considers that these entities have a crucial role to fulfill in the governance and management of cultural heritage in Africa. Not only do they shelter this heritage, they benefit especially from the proximity with the sites as well as with the people that contribute to the production or direct management of this heritage.
Moreover, in the New World Agenda 2030 on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), culture occupies a cross-cutting place according to UNESCO. The protection and promotion of Cultural Heritage contributes to the achievement and implementation of virtually all SDGs, most especially SDG 8: “Promoting sustained, shared and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, notably Target 8.9 “Develop and Implement by 2030, policies to develop Sustainable Tourism that creates Jobs and enhances Culture and Local Products” and SDG 11: “Ensuring that the cities and human settlements are inclusive, resilient and sustainable,” notably Target 11.4 “Strengthen efforts to protect and preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”
The main objective of this Conference is, of course, to be a moment of celebration of the International Day of Monuments and Sites, but also of sensitization of the different concerned Actors and Stakeholders regarding the problem of Cultural Heritage, the need to steer towards participatory and inclusive approaches in the governance and management of cultural heritage in Africa, while involving more, in a spirit of subsidiarity, the African Local and Regional Governments with a view to a better Protection, Enhancement and Promotion, at the local level, of the Cultural Heritage in Africa.
The conference had as specific objectives to:
- Sensitize the different Actors and Stakeholders (International Organizations, Central Governments, Local and Regional Governments, Private Sector, Components of the Civil Society …) on the importance of the Cultural Heritage of Africa at the local level and on the challenges and threats to which it is confronted;
- Create a framework for exchange between the different Actors and Stakeholders involved in the Governance and Management of African Cultural Heritage;
- Reflect and exchange on an African roadmap for a better Protection, Enhancement and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in Africa.
The opening of the conference was marked by the speeches delivered by:
- (Welcome Speech by) Her Excellency Dr. Amina Al Hajri, Deputy Director General of the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO);
- His Excellency Mohamed El Aaraj, Minister of Culture and Communication of the Kingdom of Morocco, represented by the Inspector General of this Department;
- Mohamed Saddiki, President of the Municipal Council of the City of Rabat;
- Abdelati Lahlou, President of the International Council of Monuments and Sites – Morocco (ICOMOS-Morocco);
- Karim Hendili, Program Specialist for Culture, UNESCO Office in Rabat Office.
About one hundred participants took part in the Conference. They represent the International Organizations concerned (ISESCO, UNESCO, ICOMOS, UCLG), the Ministerial Departments responsible for and/ or involved in the Governance and Management of Cultural Heritage, the Associations of Local and Regional Governments, Cities with Historic Sites in Africa classified by UNESCO, African Cities Capitals of Islamic Culture classified by ISESCO, Moroccan Cities housing Historic Sites, the Mediterranean Network of Medinas and Heritage Development (RMM&DP), Local Elected Officials, the various Civil Society Components engaged and/ or involved in the theme, Architects, Universities and Training Institutes, Students and Partners
The event was marked especially by the attendance and very active participation of Mayors and Representatives of Local and Regional Governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, in addition to the Mayors and Representatives of the Local and Regional Governments of Morocco.
The deliberations of the Conference gave rise to the development and validation of the following recommendations.
1. Work for the establishment of a conducive environment for a better participatory and inclusive governance of the management, protection and enhancement of cultural heritage, monuments and sites, especially at the institutional, political, organizational and managerial and technical levels.
2. Strengthen the consideration and integration of the cultural and heritage dimension, in a transversal and integrated way, into the public policies, the national strategies and the sustainable development programs, particularly at the local level.
3. Call on African States to refer to the contents and guidelines of the Islamic Declaration on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Islamic World, from the 10th Islamic Conference of Ministers of Culture (CIMC), held on 21 November 2017 in Khartoum, as a guiding document for the development of national and regional policies and laws to protect and safeguard cultural heritage.
4. Pursue the advocacy work with the states and central governments to support local and regional governments in the governance, organization and management of their cultural heritage, monuments and sites, including opportunities for financial and technical support.
5. Support African local and regional governments with documents, tools and information to enable them to protect, promote and enhance better their culture and heritage.
6. Popularize and build up the capacities regarding the conventions and legal instruments for the protection and enhancement of heritage and culture.
7. Put the protection and preservation of heritage and cultural memories at the center of the sustainable development policies and the sectoral policies.
8. Take into account cultural specificities in the planning of cities and urban spaces.
9. Encourage the networking of actors for a better promotion and enhancement of cultural heritage, starting from the good practice documents that exist in Africa or elsewhere.
10. Conduct studies and diagnoses, and take stock of the participation of communities in the management of cultural heritage in Africa.
11. Develop or renew the site management plans with the involvement of local communities.
12. Integrate cultural practices into the management and rehabilitation of sites and monuments.
13. Encourage the governments of African cities to invest in heritage, and create museums to protect African cultural heritage, exposed to multiple risks including illicit trafficking.
14. Encourage local and regional governments housing a heritage to build up the capacities of their representatives and managers for a better approach to the concept of heritage in synergy with the SDGs.
15. Under the aegis of UCLG-Africa, identify the cities having a plan for safeguarding and enhancing their heritage in order to support them to structure, finance and organize better the promotional activities.
16. Inform, sensitize and build up the capacities of local elected officials on the place and importance of cultural heritage as a socio-cultural wealth and vector of sustainable development at the local, regional and national levels./.