DDG remarks on behalf of Director-General Xaba during roundtable for African Ministers at the 20th session of UNTWO in Zimbabwe.

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30 Aug 2013

Your Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, guests and distinguished experts, ladies and gentlemen,  our sincere gratitude to you and your government for coming to this round table discussion on “linking heritage places and sustainable tourism in Africa”. We salute and commend the leadership of the two host governments in promoting and championing the course of preserving and protecting the Africa’s cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of all humankind.

As you may be aware, the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) was established in 2006, after the endorsement by the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee and subsequently by the 15th General Assembly of State Parties to the World Heritage Convention in Paris, in October 2005. The establishment of the AWHF was further endorsed by the 1st African Union Council of Culture Ministers in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2005 and by the African Union Heads of States Summit in Khartoum, Sudan in January 2006.  The AWHF was granted the status of UNESCO Category II Centre in 2009 and thereafter, UNESCO entered into an agreement in January 2007 with the South African Government wherein it was agreed that the South African Government will host the Fund on behalf of the continent.

The main objective of the AWHF is to address the challenges faced by many African State Parties in the implementation of the 1972 Convention, specifically; the underrepresentation of African sites on the World Heritage List and the insufficient conservation and management of these sites. Currently there are 981 sites on the World Heritage list and only 88 are from Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this 88, most are on the Danger List.  AWHF also aims to create conditions on the continent which ensure that World Heritage sites play a catalytic role in socio-economic growth and social cohesion.

Through the leadership provided by your governments and, with the contribution of funds by many of you, the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) has provided support to African sites as a result of this assistance, 15 new African sites have been nominated to the World Heritage List since the inception of the AWHF capacity building programmes in 2008.  In addition the AWHF has been able to initiate capacity programmes that linked heritage sites and sustainable development in Africa. The AWHF in collaboration with the Regional Heritage Institutions conducted a study which explored the impact of tourism at World Heritage Sites as a means for economic development. The following sites were part of the pioneering study Bwindi National Park (Uganda), Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe), Ngorongoro (Tanzania), Kilwa Kisiwani (Tanzania) and Tsodilo (Botswana). Consequent to the study, the AWHF held its first SADC workshop which aimed at exploring and designing pilot projects at heritage sites for income generation and improving the local community’s livelihoods as well as promoting local sustainable development in the Region.

The AWHF is depended on voluntary support from State Parties and the Private Sector. As a measure to sustain the Fund, the initial Board of Trustees established an Endowment Fund.  Currently, the AWHF Endowment Fund stands at 5 million U.S. Dollars and is far from our original target of 25 million U.S. Dollars envisioned at its inception in 2007. Yet increasingly our heritage is facing far more challenges due to unforeseen conflicts and impacts from development initiatives.

Heritage has an important and pivotal role to play in the development of a stable and prosperous continent. I am pleased to inform you that both the Chairperson of The African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Zuma and The Director General  of UNESCO Madam Irina Bokova have agreed to lead in the fundraising campaign, specifically by approaching Heads of States to contribute to the Fund. A series of sensitising events are planned (including during the AU Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa and this Round table discussion) and these will lead to an international conference in March 2014. The Conference, which will be entitled “World Heritage and Peace in Africa” will be organised by the South African government, the AWHF; UNESCO and The African Union. Its aim is to discuss the role of World Heritage places in peace and reconciliation in Africa. It will further making an appeal to raise funds for the AWHF Endowment Fund, in order to make greater strides in supporting and safeguarding Africa’s natural and cultural heritage. 

Your Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished experts, I call upon the African State Parties and Africa’s friends to support our efforts. We would like you to support our joint initiative and consider contributing to the Endowment Fund in order to ensure that the AWHF is strengthened and empowered to carry-out its mission.  We thank you for the support and contribution to this noble Fund dedicated to the promotion and management of Africa’s World Heritage Sites.