Conservation and preservation of the city of Constantine, Algeria
The project in Constantine is part of the cross-sector project “Poverty Reduction through Sustainable World Heritage Management”, launched in 2002, on the theme of eliminating poverty and extreme poverty through the enhancement and management of cultural resources.
Constantine is one of the world’s oldest cities. Founded by the Phoenicians, it became the capital of the Numidian Kingdom under the name Cirta. Completely destroyed by Maxence in 311CE, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards by Emperor Constantine who named it after himself. Constantine has preserved the historic relics of three millennia of Numidian, Roman, Muslim, Ottoman and colonial occupation. The ancient city has been listed as an Algerian national heritage site since December 2004.
The cities of Constantine, Algeria, and Grenoble, France, have been partnered since 1999. From 2002, they have been involved in decentralised co-operation and technical actions which have expanded over the years to include five components: institutional co-operation, economic development, civil society, youth and health. In 2003 a technical mission highlighted the need to add an additional “heritage” component to the decentralised cooperation between Grenoble and Constantine, and to focus actions on the ancient city of Constantine, an outstanding heritage site under threat.
In January 2005, another mission enabled the identification of suitable partners to steer the pilot project “Heritage and Poverty Alleviation” in Constantine. Apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved in elaborating the project, the Président de l’Assemblée populaire communale de Constantine (president of the people’s communal assembly of Constantine) and the City of Grenoble expressed their interest. The University of Rome III established an urban conservation plan in collaboration with the rehabilitation unit of the ancient city. The Italian team carried out an inventory of the developed part of the ancient historic centre and proposed a safeguarding perimetre. Finally, the mission emphasised the need to implement a tool similar to the French planning tool SCOT, (Coherent Territorial Planning Scheme) for territorial planning in Constantine so new constructions would not destroy the landscape value of this spectacular site, and also to improve contact between Constantine and the surrounding cities.
Finally, following the exchanges and the previous missions, in January 2006, a technical mission was carried out jointly by the City of Grenoble and the World Heritage Centre, in the framework of the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, to assess the progress of ongoing components carried out in the framework of decentralised cooperation. Regarding the heritage component, the municipal authorities forwarded the conservation plan prepared by the University of Rome III to the city of Grenoble.
This activity allowed to sensibilise authorities at different levels to acknowledge the importance of heritage and include it in activities formally focusing on the socio-economic and institutional environment.