A regional workshop for strengthening the role of local communities in the management and conservation of World Heritage sites was held from March 27 to 29, 2016 in Mauritania. Organized by the World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Office for the Maghreb in collaboration with the Banc d'Arguin National Park, this workshop has emphasized the importance of local communities as a major player in the conservation and management of World Heritage in a sustainable development perspective for the benefit of communities.
The workshop benefited from the active and efficient participation of the “Imraguen” local community who lives in the Banc d'Arguin National Park, civil society, a group of international experts, sites managers and heritage professionals in the Arab region as well as representatives of the local authorities in Mauritania.
The main objectives of the workshop was to encourage the development of community participation processes in the management and sustainable conservation of World Heritage sites, promoting partnerships between local communities and public institutions and focusing on the economic benefits of this approach for communities.
Several case studies and examples of participatory management systems in collaboration with local communities in the Arab region were presented and studied from the perspective of the people-centred-approaches. These examples showed several alternatives to the management systems focused on public institutions and excellent cases of sustainable and efficient management with local communities as main partner. Participants have also had a one day practical-work with the local community "Imraguen" in the Banc d'Arguin National Park.
Referring to the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations (SDG 2030) and the policy document adopted by the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention in 2015 for the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention, the workshop stressed the interest and importance of considering local communities not as passive partners but as co-managers of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List by establishing participatory management mechanisms that lead to consulting local communities before taking any decisions. This will guarantee a sustainable conservation of World Heritage and its transmission to future generations through the cooperation of all stakeholders.
The workshop came up with a series of conclusions and recommendations that will be shortly translated into a strategic action plan aiming to strengthening the role of local communities in the conservation and sustainable management of World Heritage sites in the Arab states. The participants, especially representatives of the local community "Imraguen" and the civil society expressed their support and solidarity with local communities martyred by wars and conflicts being experienced by several countries in the Arab region. They launched a "Call from Nouakchott" to ask all parties involved in conflicts to spare human lives and all aspects of cultural identities in the countries concerned by trying to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.