20-22 June: African academics and heritage experts met in the city of Teramo, in the Abruzzo region of Italy, to unpack the concept of ‘prevention’ as a tool for sustainable development, emphasizing the need to place the youth in the centre of this concept by making it relevant to them.
Organized under the theme “Protection of cultural and natural heritage and resources through prevention: current and new professions”, the meeting, which was called the African Universities Rectors’ Conference, attracted rectors, vice chancellors and presidents of African universities, as well as cultural heritage experts.
“With youth now making up for more than half the population in Africa, we, as places of learning need to be ready to give students the tools they need to care for their cultural and natural environment, and make a living from it in the most sustainable way,” said Webber Ndoro, Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). “It is for this reason that we need to rethink the professions surrounding prevention and preservation, and look for new opportunities. Africa can pave the way.”
The one-day event happened during the “II International Forum of Gran Sasso” (20-22 June 2019), organized by ICCROM, together with the University of Teramo and the Diocese of Teramo-Atri.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre was represented by the Chief of the Africa Unit, Edmond Moukala, who highlighted the Centre’s ongoing programmes for safeguarding heritage with the involvement of universities and academic institutions in Africa.
“As the inherent part of UNESCO’s mission to educate and spread the values of peace, respect and mutual understanding between people and cultures, it is essential to combine education, capacity building, information and research, as well as the involvement of communities in all these aspects, for the effective management and conservation of world heritage sites” said Mr Moukala.
In response to the Ngorongoro Declaration (2016), the World Heritage Centre, in close collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund and UNESCO Regional Offices, has been at the forefront of advocating for more involvement of African educational institutions in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and sustainable development. The Centre has previously organized regional workshops called “World Heritage and Education Institutions in Africa” at Great Zimbabwe University (Zimbabwe) and Saint-Louis (Senegal). These workshops were the first of a series of UNESCO activities conceived to address the urgent need to build African capacities in a sustainable way by drawing on the vast pool of expertise available at African educational institutions.
Being at the front line for shaping the next generation of experts, it is argued that universities are in a prime position to advocate for innovation in protecting heritage resources, but also using heritage to create opportunities and provide wellbeing to communities.