A roadmap for Sierra Leone’s first site to be proposed for UNESCO’s World Heritage List
In January 2005, Sierra Leone became a State party to the 1972 Convention and identified, in 2012, in its first Tentative List the sites that could potentially be proposed for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This year, in January 2022, this Tentative List was updated to include Gola-Tiwai complex as the potential site for the country’s first nomination dossier.
Being among the 12 African countries without a site inscribed, Sierra Leone is currently receiving substantial support under the “Capacity-building programme for the nomination of World Heritage sites in the Africa Region’’ through the UNESCO/Japan-Funds-In-Trust that targets 10 African countries without inscribed properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List to prepare and submit strong and credible nomination dossiers.
To mark its commitment, Sierra Leone mobilized a national technical team to prepare the nomination of the natural site of the Gola-Tiwai Complex with the support of a group of international UNESCO experts, with a target to submit the inscription proposal by January 2023.
This site is composed of two significant protected areas set in a matrix of traditional agricultural practices and cultural landscapes: The Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) and Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
From 28 July to 5 August 2022, the initiative reached a milestone with the organization, , through a field visit followed by a technical workshop to collect crucial information, conduct on-site consultations, and establish the roadmap for the finalization of the nomination dossier.
During this important mission, the international experts and the mission team met, H.E. Dr. Mamunata Pratt, with the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and H.E. Prof. Foday Moriba Jaward, Minister of Environment of Sierra Leone, who strongly support this nomination process and the implementation of UNESCO’s Culture Conventions in Sierra Leone.
The team first visited the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, met the local communities and the two paramount chiefs who supported the nomination process and the establishment of a buffer zone to legally demarcate and protect the site. Two communities close to Tiwai were also visited which allowed community members to express their strong support for the protection of the site.
The mission team then travelled to Kenema to visit the Gola Rainforest National Park, the second component of the Gola-Tiwai complex, to discuss with the Gola Management team the site’s conservation status, its management structure and community engagement.
Following the field visit, a 2-day workshop was organized in Freetown with all the relevant stakeholders to tackle key issues for the preparation of the nomination dossier, while identifying a number of challenges and unresolved issues that all participants committed to resolve in the process. During the opening session, H.E. Prof. Foday Moriba Jaward, Minister of Environment of Sierra Leone, welcomed the nomination process which, if crowned by a successful inscription, aims to develop eco-tourism, protect biodiversity, and invigorate youth employment. H.E. Dr. Mamunata Pratt, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs reiterated the richness of natural and cultural heritage in the country and the importance of protecting and promoting it for the benefit of local communities. Muhammad Muhammad Juma, Chief of the Africa Unit of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre stressed the importance of the sustainable conservation of African heritage for future generations.
“As we celebrate this year the 1972 Convention’s 50th anniversary, UNESCO warmly welcomes the mobilization and commitment of Sierra Leone to have its first site inscribed on the World Heritage List, aiming to achieve a primary goal of UNESCO’s Operational Strategy for Priority Africa (2022-2029) and its Flagship Programme 3 on “Fostering Cultural Heritage and Capacity Development ”
Following the two-day technical discussions gathering different stakeholders, a roadmap with a clear timetable was established for the submission of the nomination dossier by January 2023.