Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile, on the Occasion of the address to the African Union Ministers of Culture Conference
The Moderator of this session
Fellow Ministers of Culture from our Continent
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On the 26th to the 28th of September this year, my country South Africa had the honour of hosting a successful International Conference on “Living with World Heritage in Africa.”
This conference, held at Kopanong in Ekurhuleni, brought together Ministers of Culture from our continent, representatives of communities living in and around world heritage sites, representatives of extractive industries, academics, experts and heritage practitioners.
The conference was indeed a broadly representative forum of all heritage stakeholders on our continent.
It thus ushered in a new and inclusive stakeholder framework for implementing good practices in both managing and preserving heritage on the African continent and the rest of the world.
At the conference we were able to consolidate a united African voice; a voice that represents our collective aspirations on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
I once again take this opportunity to thank my fellow Ministers of Culture from the African Continent for contributing to the success of the conference.
The key outcome of the Kopanong conference was the drafting of our continent’s Second Position Paper on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
This position paper symbolizes our joint commitment as African state parties to improve the implementation of the Convention.
At the conference we reaffirmed that all our world heritage properties belong and must be accessible to all.
They should therefore be managed in a manner that benefits communities living in and around those properties.
The conference also reaffirmed that heritage is unique and irreplaceable. It belongs to past, present, and future generations.
Working together, we should therefore develop long-term plans for the preservation of our heritage properties.
The conference also pronounced on the reality that heritage preservation and sustainable development are not mutually exclusive.
We should therefore protect our heritage properties and ensure that they also contribute towards the socioeconomic development of our societies.
The conference reminded us of the importance of ongoing dialogue in finding lasting solutions to challenges facing the continent and the world.
This dialogue should inspire us to avoid conflicts as they impact negatively on our heritage properties as well as on the sustainable development of our continent.
The conference pronounced boldly that no longer shall we as African state parties continue to be dictated upon on issues that affect us and our heritage.
Indeed the conference agreed that; “nothing about us without us!”
The conference also pronounced that the rights and benefits from minerals extracted from our heritage properties also belong to communities living in and around these properties. Communities must therefore benefit from these minerals.
The Conference was unanimous that when decisions are made about our heritage properties the voices of communities living in and around these properties should be heard by UNESCO and all its advisory bodies.
Equally a need was identified for us to continue working together to ensure the proper conservation and management of our heritage sites.
In particular, we have a responsibility to collaborate with one another in capacity building initiatives and exchange of expertise.
This we must do with a view to increase the number of sites nominated into the World Heritage List and to strengthen the management of existing world heritage properties.
The specific recommendations agreed upon at the Kopanong Conference are contained in our Second Position Paper that we will present to UNESCO on the occasion to mark the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.
I take this opportunity to urge all of you fellow Africans to support the recommendations of the Kopanong Conference.
Let us also work together to implement these recommendations so that we can ensure the effective management of our world heritage properties in support of sustainable development.
Fellow Ministers, the Kopanong Conference took time to deliberate on the progress we have made as African state parties in the preservation of our world heritage properties.
It was noted that; we have made significant progress in ensuring balance and equity on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in particular for African countries.
Over the past two years the African continent has listed no less than 10 sites on the World Heritage List.
However, our continent is still underrepresented on the List.
As African state parties we must therefore strive to put forward more of our places of Outstanding Universal Value for nomination to the World Heritage List.
We must also work hard to improve the status of our existing World Heritage Sites as part of efforts to build a more positive image of our Continent.
Our successes thus far in ensuring balance and equity in the UNESCO World Heritage List have in part been due to the much need regional and international cooperation in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
Our successes have also been made possible by initiatives led by the African World Heritage Fund working together with UNESCO.
In keeping with the spirit of the Kopanong Conference, we have an obligation to support institutions that facilitate regional and international integration.
These include structures of the African Union and the Africa World Heritage Fund.
We regards to the Africa World Heritage Fund we thank all those state parties that continue to contribute financially and otherwise to the work of the Fund.
At the Kopanong Conference a number of pledges for funding were received from both governments and the private sector.
Fellow Ministers I take this opportunity once more to urge all of you to support the work of the Africa World Heritage Fund, financially, technically and otherwise.
We must also make a call once more to the private sector, especially the extractive industries, to also support the work of the Fund.
Let us continue to work together to use the arts, culture and heritage to further the African Union’s vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.