Brussels - The Belgian Government and UNESCO signed an Agreement of Cooperation today, wishing to enhance their cooperation, especially between the Federal office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural affairs (OSTC) and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

“Through this Agreement, we will make available the Belgian know-how and the expertise of the Universities of Ghent and Louvain in the use of satellite images for the monitoring of World Heritage sites in developing countries,” said Brigitte Decadt, OSTC Director of Research and Space applications.

The Agreement provides for 750,000 € to be distributed over the next five years for several areas of conservation activities under the World Heritage Convention, including:

  • Use of space technologies to asses the state of conservation of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, in their management, development of tools to improve the information base and the mapping and monitoring of sites in support of conservation management and training of staff responsible for those sites;
  • Formulating requests of international assistance, for submission to bilateral and multi-bilateral Cooperation Agencies, in favour of sites inscribed on the List;
  • Promoting World Heritage among citizens and among youngsters in particular.

Recalling the recent international congress of experts held in Venice on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Francesco Bandarin pointed out how “this event proved beyond a doubt that a World Heritage conservation movement is underway and that a wide range of partners are eager to get involved. The generous assistance provided by the Government of Belgium confirms this universal desire to participate”.

As a starting point for this Cooperation Agreement, experts from the University of Gent, the University of Louvain and the World Heritage Centre have developed a series of activities oriented to the creation of cartography, using satellite images, for the five World Heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Agreement was signed in the Museum of Central Africa of Tervuren which displays a large map of the Congo on one of its walls. “ I wish our maps could show that nothing has changed since 1910 when this beautiful map was created,” said Mario Hernandez, Chief of the Information Management and Remote Sensing Unit at the World Heritage Centre in Paris, “unfortunately the forest area has been drastically affected.”

“The maps that are going to be produced out of this cooperation will significantly assist all the field activities currently being sponsored by the UN Foundation with the generous participation of various NGOs”, said Guy Debonnet, Belgian expert on secondment to the World Heritage Centre working in the conservation of natural World Heritage sites.