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World Heritage Convention

Decision 25 COM VII.1
Report on the state of the World Heritage in the Africa Region

Report on the state of the World Heritage in the Africa Region

VII.1 The Secretariat presented the report on Periodic Reporting in the Africa Region (WHC-01/CONF. 208/7) to the Committee. As at November 2001, fifty-three sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List. Forty of these sites were inscribed prior to 1993 and located in eighteen countries, comprising twenty-three natural, sixteen cultural and one mixed site, and were the subject of this monitoring report. The strategic approach for the compilation of the report and the co-operation of the African States Parties in the Periodic Reporting Exercise was explained. Of the possible eighteen reports on the state of implementation of the Convention by the States Parties, sixteen had been received, and of a possible forty state of conservation reports, thirty-two had been received, representing a rate of 80%.

VII.2 As regards the state of the regional overview on the implementation of the Convention, the Secretariat drew the attention of the Committee to the following issues:

  • Periodic Reporting on the implementation of the Convention should not only be limited to countries with sites inscribed on the List;
  • Lack of policy and legislative measures for heritage conservation: where policy measures exist, the lack of solid policies and programmes to put these measures into effect is insufficient to implement them;
  • High central government-driven initiatives concerning sites with little involvement of the local population or non-governmental organizations;
  • Inadequate professional personnel, skills and equipment;
  • Lack of scientific information to enhance and update the management knowledge and methods;
  • Lack of financial resources to manage sites and techniques for mobilizing international support;
  • Lack of education and public awareness concerning World Heritage values;
  • Poorly defined and poorly understood World Heritage values;
  • Lack of mechanisms for addressing natural and anthropic threats to World Heritage;
  • Non-existence of frameworks for bi- and multilateral cooperation for designing transborder sites; and
  • Lack of nominations from countries that ratified the Convention in earlier years.

VII.3 In the light of these observations, and the achievements of the Global Strategy, the Secretariat emphasized the following challenges facing World Heritage conservation in Africa:

  • Mainstreaming World Heritage protection within the public and private sectors of the African countries;
  • Convincing the private sector to incorporate heritage protection in their activities;
  • Establish long-term conservation financing programmess for African sites (e.g. the setting up of the African Heritage Fund);
  • Promoting urban and regional planning for both urban and rural heritage;
  • Promoting transparency in heritage resource management;
  • Promoting more proactive use of environmental assessment tools for the decision making process; and
  • Effective management through regional and subregional training, accountability, cooperation, coordination and agreements.

VII.4 The Secretariat presented an Action Plan focused on:

  • Co-operation and Networks for better sharing of resources;
  • Training for more skilled and efficient manpower;
  • Wider participation to ensure long and sustained conservation of World Heritage in Africa;
  • Management to address deficiencies at the national level and on the sites;
  • Scientific research and reporting to enhance knowledge at sites, and
  • update methods for site protection and information sharing.

VII.5 The Secretariat recommended the convening of the second round of regional meetings with site managers. Meetings with the Permanent Delegations to UNESCO and with the National Commissions for UNESCO should also be held. The Secretariat also recommended the adoption by the Committee of the Action Plan, to be funded by the World Heritage Fund, extrabudgetary sources and the African Heritage Fund.

VII.6 Following the presentation, several interventions were made by Committee members and observers. After debate, the Committee deferred the adoption of the African Periodic Report, on the basis of the following comments:

  • the complete Report should have been provided to enable the Committee to have the information which led to the conclusion and recommendations of the Report, provided as a Working Document;
  • in view of the importance of the Report and the issues involved in the Periodic Reporting Exercise, the Committee requested that a copy of the report be provided to all members to provide an opportunity to thoroughly study the Report (CD-Rom version), and certain recommendations contained in the Report submitted to the Committee which may be difficult to implement.

VII.7 The Committee noted that the proposed Action Plan should be completed with a quantitative plan, highlighting actions to be undertaken in the short and in the long term, and associating the follow up activities to periodic reporting with the activities undertaken under the Africa 2009 Programme.

VII.8 As regards the proposed African Heritage Fund, while expressing the urgent need to support African countries, the Committee requested a detailed description of the Fund and suggested that it should have a structure whereby the Committee could have a say in its utilisation.

VII.9 In considering the level of awareness raising, the Committee noted that each regional action plan differed, and that more awareness raising activities are foreseen in the follow up to the Periodic Reporting Exercise. The Committee noted that the countries concerned will gain six more months following approval of the proposed cycle for periodic reporting.

VII.10 To simplify the work of the Committee, it was decided to provide the Committee with the summary report. However, the Committee was informed that the full report would be made available to its members.

VII.11 IUCN welcomed the report on Africa. Africa is the only region where the number of natural sites exceeds the number of cultural sites. In addition, 22% of all natural World Heritage sites are from Africa. Alarmingly, 42% of natural sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger are from Africa, in some cases the result of armed conflict related issues as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. IUCN considered that this required increasing emphasis by the Committee on African heritage conservation, particularly through activities which build local support, linking conservation to sustainable development and support capacity building efforts. However, it is important to understand that root causes such as poverty, debt, lack of development and ethnic conflict afflict too many African countries. These underlying causes will be addressed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

VII.12 IUCN felt the report has many positive points but that the recommendations would have more impact if the set of priority items were presented in a clearer and shorter fashion. IUCN also informed the Committee that the World Parks Congress (WPC) will be held in Durban in September 2003. This 10-yearly event is key in shaping the world's protected areas now covering the equivalent of 10% of the earth's terrestrial surface. The WPC will include a major focus on World Heritage and on African conservation. The meeting will provide an important opportunity to address the issues identified in the Periodic Reporting Exercise.

VII.13 The ICCROM Representative reported that several activities proposed in the Action Plan are already being implemented by ICCROM under Africa 2009, and more links will be established with the periodic reporting.

VII.14 The Committee noted that the Action Plan as well as the recommendations were derived from consultations with the States Parties during regional meetings, responses to the questionnaires and through various consultant missions undertaken to assist the participating countries.

VII.15 As regards follow up consultations with the concerned African States Parties, the Committee noted that the Chairperson had approved two international assistance requests amounting to US$40,000 to enable the organization in Africa of two follow up meetings for Francophone and Anglophone African countries respectively.

VII.16 Taking into consideration the above observations, the Committee deferred the adoption of the African Periodic Report and the proposed Action Plan. It recommended that the Centre re-examine the African Periodic Report in consultation with the States Parties, taking into consideration the comments, and re-submit the Report to the next session of the World Heritage Committee. The Report should include more details on the proposed Action Plan and the proposed African Heritage Fund, and be circulated to the States Parties. A Progress Report on the African Periodic Reporting Exercise should be submitted to the next Bureau of the World Heritage Committee.

Decision Code
25 COM VII.1
Periodic Reporting
Report of the twenty-fifth session of the World Heritage Committee (Helsinki, Finland, 11 - 16 December 2001)
Context of Decision