The African Expert’s virtual meeting on Sites of Memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa and Inter-Ministerial Meeting
Reflection of Day 1 (6th April 2021): Experts’ discussion and development of the declaration on Sites of Memory
The Virtual Experts’ Meeting on Sites of Memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa and Inter-Ministerial Meeting kicked off on Tuesday, 6th April 2021. The four-day meeting seeks to build on the conclusions of the previous expert meetings organized by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), which were held in Paris (France) in December 2018 and a virtual meeting held in April 2020. The objective of the meeting is to further reflect on the operationalization of the concept of sites associated with memories of recent conflicts within the framework of the World Heritage Convention in Africa.
The day's discussions provided a position for the operationalization of the guidelines and unreservedly advocated for transformation and evolution of the 1972 Convention. Making their opening remarks, speakers from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and World Heritage Centre all agreed that the time was apt for Africa to discuss the treatment of sites of recent conflict; especially in view of increasing number of nominations submitted to the World Heritage Committee or those under preparation.
The meeting bestowed sites such as the of Battle of Isandlwana in South Africa, the war site of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola and the sites of genocide in Rwanda, that are all struggling to make it to the World Heritage List. The need to address the question of the relevance of including sites linked to recent conflicts on the World Heritage List and to undertake a targeted reflection on this typology of site had been pending since 1996, when the inscription of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) on the World Heritage List raised concerns.
In his keynote address, Mr. Vusumuzi Mkhize, Chairperson of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), noted that the continent joins in the celebration of the African Union (AU) year for Arts, Culture and Heritage on the issue of sites of memory and implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Africa. Mr. Mkhize continued that, the meeting takes place at a moment that the credibility and representation of Africa’s narratives in World Heritage systems are interrogated; and this meeting affords reflection on how “sites associated with recent conflicts” in the continent are evaluated.
The contextualized reflection by the experts would be the building blocks on how – the continent brings together its definition of the path to follow in defining its heritage sites related to recent conflicts in World Heritage and other recognition systems. Furthermore, the Chairperson appealed to the African countries to continuously support the AWHF in its efforts to improve the conservation, management, protection and global marketing of heritage sites aiming at building sustainability for the benefit of our populations.
Discussions of the African Experts Meeting continue further on Wednesday, 7th April 2021.
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