The UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), in collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and the UNESCO Field Offices in Africa, organized an regional workshop from 17 to 19 February 2021, where National Focal Points from the Africa region participated online.

Following the submission of the Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting questionnaires in July 2020 and several consultations with World Heritage site managers and African heritage experts of the Africa region and their recommendations and analysis were presented to the National Focal Points for discussion and debates during the workshop.

During the 3 days of exchanges between National Focal Points, the analysis of the preliminary results of the submitted questionnaires, and identification of the strategic objectives for the coming years were used to frame the final draft Third Cycle Action Plan for the Africa region. This proposed Draft Action Plan (2022-2027) will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee for approval at its 44th extended session this year.

Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO WHC, opened the workshop by congratulating the group on the 100% submission of the Periodic Reporting online questionnaires in the Africa Region. She drew attention to the African Union’s 2021 theme of “Art, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want” and emphasised that this theme “is a testimony of how the Africa Union values culture and heritage as an enabler of sustainable development for the African continent”. Ms Rössler expressed her satisfaction that the draft Action Plan meets the objectives of UNESCO’s Global Priority Africa and allows African States Parties to fully implement the Convention, Aspiration 5 of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 4 Directors from the UNESCO Regional Field Offices in Africa region also joined the workshop. Mr Hubert Gijzen, Regional Director for Southern Africa and Representative to SADC, emphasised the need to strengthen regional cooperation in order to ensure the effective protection of culture and heritage. Ms Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Regional Director for Eastern Africa, urged participants to continue their focus on increasing the involvement of local and indigenous communities, as well as youth, in key World Heritage issues. Mr Khaled Salah, Regional Director for Central Africa, expressed his confidence that the Workshop will greatly help to strengthen capacities of States Parties and develop more sustainable conservation measures for World Heritage sites in Africa. Finally, Mr Dimitri Sanga, Regional Director a.i, for Western Africa, highlighted the opportunity provided by the African Union’s 2021 theme to promote heritage issues in the region. Mr Souayibou Varissou, Executive Director of the African World Heritage Fund underlined the Directors’ message and asked the National Focal Points to be ambitious by proposing actions that will mark the Third Cycle Action Plan.

Preparation of the Draft Action Plan: 3 days of intensive and fruitful discussions between National Focal Points, Advisory Bodies and AWHF.

During the first day of the workshop, WHC and AWHF made several presentations on the Third Cycle Periodic Reporting exercise in Africa, the main results of analysis of the implementation of the 1972 Convention at the State Party and World Heritage property level and the outcomes of the Monitoring Indicators for the region. 

On the second day of the workshop, the draft Action Plan was presented and discussed.  National Focal Points were then invited to join one of the 5 groups dedicated to one of the strategic objectives. During this stage of the workshop, National Focal Points also had the opportunity to contribute to the actions in the draft Action Plan.

On the last day of the workshop, the Third Cycle draft Action Plan was fully endorsed by National Focal Points. Further the Advisory Bodies (ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM), the AWHF, and the UNESCO WHC reaffirmed their support towards the implementation of the draft Action Plan after its adoption and recommendations by the World Heritage Committee.

After fruitful discussions during which participants actively contributed to the final version of the draft Action Plan, National Focal Points from across the region expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to this important process:

“I would like to express my congratulations to the coordination team, the AWHF, and the WHC for the Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting exercise and to this proposed six-year Action Plan for Africa. The series of workshops gave me wonderful opportunities to share experiences with my counterparts. Congratulations again!”

—Mr Medhanie T. Maryam (Eritrea)

“This Draft Action Plan 2021-2027 is the fruitful collaborative result of the active and inclusive participation of the African States Parties, UNESCO, AWHF, ICCROM and heritage experts with huge experience and with dedicated commitment to the cause of World Heritage.

For Mauritius, SIDS and countries of the region, this Third Cycle Action Plan will be a very useful tool and unique opportunity for the putting in place of systems and initiatives to further the cultural heritage cause in sustainably protecting and promoting our World Heritage sites while empowering the people involved in the upkeeping of these sites as treasures for humanity.

—Mr Arvind Boodhun (Mauritius)

“It was an incredible experience that was made possible by the dedication of the technical team. We will have 6 years to make a difference, following the principle that no one should be left behind.”

—Mr Celio Tiane (Mozambique)

“Grand merci à toute l'équipe de coordination de l'UNESCO du fonds du patrimoine africain et toutes mes félicitations aux points focaux qui ont fait un travail exceptionnel en remplissant le rapport et à superviser le travail des gestionnaires de site malgré tous les obstacles liés au COVID-19. On reste optimiste pour la mise en œuvre ce travail.”

—Mr Seydou N. Kane (Senegal)

“Thank you everyone for a very enriching process with many lessons learnt. I can confirm that Seychelles is fully committed to contribute at its best to the implementation of the Action Plan.”

—Ms Frauke Fleischer-Dogley (Seychelles)