The Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO organized a three-day workshop from 26 to 28 March 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya in order to increase youth engagement in the conservation and promotion of World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage.
As a State Party to three important UNESCO Conventions in the field of Culture, Kenya has made the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions a national priority. Now, Kenya is working to mobilize youth from all counties to join the national efforts.
Kenya boasts six World Heritage sites ranging from the Lake Turkana National Park to Lamu Old Town, and has succeeded in inscribing two elements on the UNESCO List of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding: the Isukuti dance of Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya and the Traditions and practices associated with the Kayas in the sacred forests of the Mijikenda.
The inaugural Youth Forum provided an excellent platform to discuss issues of culture conservation and protection among more than 90 young participants with an interest in culture and heritage, representing all the counties in Kenya. The main focus of this workshop was to give the youth participants an opportunity to better understand the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage and 1972 World Heritage UNESCO Conventions, engage with experts, and create opportunities for deeper youth engagement in heritage protection and promotion.
The workshop was officially opened by the Secretary General of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, represented by the Deputy, Ms. Christine Maingi. In her opening speech, Ms. Maingi emphasized the need for a partnership approach to conservation and preservation of our cultural heritage. “Over 75% of Kenya’s total population is under 35years,” she said. “It is therefore imperative that any development agenda engages the youth. There is no limit of the potential and abilities of youth in safeguarding and conserving our culture, for the betterment of society,” she added, while pledging the Commission’s commitment to supporting innovative initiatives in heritage preservation.
The Director of Culture in the Ministry of Sports and Heritage Dr. Kiprop Lagat, who was an honored guest in this forum, underscored the potential of youth to propel sustainable development widely and urgently, as the carriers of our heritage to the next generations.
Ms. Judith Ogana, National Professional Officer for Culture at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, also participated in the opening session. In her presentation, Ms. Ogana introduced UNESCO’s six international conventions in the field of culture and highlighted the urgency for Kenya to ratify the full portfolio of legal instruments, which are complementary in their scope. She shared UNESCO’s innovative programmes designed for enhanced youth engagement and participation, notably the World Heritage in Young Hands (WHYH), the World Heritage Volunteers Initiative, and the “Patrimonito World Heritage Adventures cartoon series. “UNESCO considers young people as partners and a key stakeholder,” she asserted, explaining UNESCO’s drive to encourage youth participation, partnerships and the integration of youth concerns and issues into the policy agenda of UNESCO Member States. “UNESCO recognizes that youth are driving social change and innovation, claiming respect for their fundamental human rights and freedoms, and seeking new opportunities to learn and work together for a better future,” said Ms. Ogana. “Through the UNESCO Youth Programme and various Culture programmes and resources, UNESCO is committed to empowering young women and men to work together to drive social innovation and change, participate fully in the development of their societies, eradicate poverty and inequality, and foster a culture of peace,” she added.
The 3 day workshop included riveting discussions on national values, principle of governance, national cohesion and integration were led by representatives from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission of Kenya (NCIC). The participating youth were urged to embrace a culture of peace, cohesion while upholding and promoting our national values. The forum concluded with the launch of the new Kenya National Council for Youth on Culture and Heritage.
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