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Increasing youth involvement in the promotion and protection of African World Heritage

Friday, 29 April 2016
access_time 2 min read
Group photo of the young paticipants © UNESCO

The first Anglophone African Heritage Regional Youth Forum opened today on Robben Island World Heritage site in South Africa. The forum will take place from 29 April until 4 May. This first-of-its-kind forum is co-organized by the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), the Robben Island Museum (RIM) and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre with support from the Government of South Africa and the African Union in the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme. The event is also part of a series of activities marking the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the AWHF’s establishment

The forum is intended to provide a sustainable platform to increase the involvement of youth in the promotion and protection of World Heritage in Africa, and also deliver useful feedback to UNESCO, the World Heritage Committee and AWHF on youth challenges, accomplishments and actions related to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the region. The participants are young Africans (aged 20 to 28) who hail from 24 African countries and have demonstrated their motivation and interest in engaging in a World Heritage network and implementing the outcomes of the forum in their home countries. 

In her video message screened at the opening ceremony on 29 April, Dr Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO Division for Heritage and the World Heritage Centre, congratulated and encouraged the young participants. She stated:

“It is precisely your approach to heritage safeguarding that will help to shape the policies and decisions of tomorrow. As its future caretakers, you will be responsible for the future of Africa’s immense and diverse heritage. When you return to your home countries, we trust that you will champion the ideals enshrined in the World Heritage Convention.” 

Dr Rössler’s message also referred to the numerous challenges facing African cultural and natural heritage and highlighted UNESCO’s #Unite4Heritage initiative. This global social media campaign, launched by Director-General Irina Bokova in 2015, aims to put forward a counter narrative to extremism, hate and terrorism, which could guide Africa’s youth in their role as future caretakers and protectors of African immensely diverse heritage.

The 7-day forum will feature lectures and presentations from experts and heritage specialists, hands-on activities and workshops, and a guided visit of the Robben Island World Heritage site. In addition each participant will present heritage issues in his/her own country and take part in a simulation of a session of the World Heritage Committee.

On 5 May – African World Heritage Day -- a youth representative will present the participants’ recommendations during the main event of the 10th anniversary celebrations at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site in Maropeng, South Africa.

A second Youth Forum targeting Africa’s francophone youth is planned for 2017.

To download the full text of the message, click here.