Following the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee and in view of the 10th anniversary of UNESCO/African Union launching of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), the World Heritage Centre brought together African heritage experts to reflect on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the Africa region at a two and half day workshop held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 9 to 11 September 2015.

Prior to the opening of the workshop, the Africa Unit of the Word Heritage Centre and the AWHF held a meeting with the World Heritage Advisory Bodies: the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in order to discuss and develop a more strategic approach to offering “upstream” support for nominations from the Africa region. The Permanent Delegation of the Republic of South Africa to UNESCO also organized an evening reception on 8 September at their Embassy in order to announce the plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the African World Heritage Fund to members of the Africa Group at UNESCO. The Director of the Heritage Division of UNESCO, Dr. Mechtild Rössler, gave an intervention at the reception on behalf of the Assistant Director-General for Culture, Dr. Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, in which she emphasized that the events of the 10th anniversary aim to highlight the importance of UNESCO/AU decision to launch the AWHF and the role the Fund is playing as a UNESCO Category II Centre in assisting African States Parties in the implementation of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. She further noted that through our joint activities and programmes, the World Heritage Centre and AWHF have been raising capacities on the continent and creating a new generation of African World Heritage experts. In addition, she informed the Africa Group that UNESCO and the AWHF are planning to organize a regional World Heritage Youth Forum in Africa in 2016.

The workshop opened on 9 September with a presentation of the background of the workshop by the Chief of the Africa Unit at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Mr Edmond Moukala. The Director of the African World Heritage Fund, Dr Webber Ndoro, presented an overview of the past seven years of the AWHF’s activities. Two prominent experts in the field of African World Heritage, Prof. Hamady Bocoum, Director of Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire (IFAN) and Director General of the Musée des Civilisations noires (Dakar, Senegal) and Prof. George Okello Abungu, Head of Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants and Professor of Heritage Studies at the University of Mauritius, shared their individual views on the assessment of the situation of World Heritage in Africa since the joint UNESCO-African Union decision on 5 May 2006 to create the African World Heritage Fund. Their interventions also included lessons learned from their respective experiences serving as their country representatives on the World Heritage Committee.

The second day of the workshop featured an intervention by the Chairperson of the AWHF, Mr Jack Vuyo, Acting Director General, South Africa Department of Art and Culture. This was followed by a synthesis of the first day’s reflection by the Chief of the Africa Unit at the World Heritage Centre, which also addressed the challenges of implementing the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List in the Africa region. Mr Moukala then led a discussion on “Conservation and Sustainable Development: current situation and challenges”, which explored the emerging trends and opportunities of conservation and sustainable development; the approaches used for addressing these needs; and the synergies created between conservation and development.

The “Prospects for the next decade of AWHF activities” were highlighted by the Director of the African World Heritage Fund and new project proposals were also presented by the Centre for Heritage Development in Africa (CHDA) and the African Heritage School (Ecole du patrimoine africain-EPA). These activities, which shall include a regional Youth Forum on World Heritage in Africa, will fall into the year-long celebration in 2016 of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the AWHF.

The workshop resulted in a draft report, which was presented to the Africa Group of UNESCO on 11 September. It will also contribute to an international conference on “Conservation and Development for World Heritage in the Africa region”, which is being organized by the World Heritage Centre and the African World Heritage Fund for May 2016.

For more information, please contact Mr Edmond Moukala, Chief of the Africa Unit at the World Heritage Centre,