Conflict a major threat to African heritage

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Johannesburg - Conflict remains a major challenge with regard to the preservation and protection of heritage in the African continent, says Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile.

Mashatile was speaking at the official opening of a four-day International Conference on "living with world heritage in Africa" on Wednesday.

"Despite our achievements, Africa remains with many challenges with regards to the preservation and protection of its heritage. Many world heritage sites that are in danger are found in our continent. Conflict remains a major contributor to this state of affairs.

"The recent events in Mali are of concern not only to the people of Mali, but the entire continent and the world. To see this important part of African heritage now being threatened is indeed a major setback," he said.

The Malian history opened a new chapter in the understanding of African civilization as well as instilling significant pride to all Africans.

The Minister said world heritage should leverage on the potential of the extractive industries in supporting socio-economic development in Africa.

He said the continent must be ceased with finding solutions that make heritage preservation relevant to communities from an economic perspective.

As part of the outcomes of the conference, government will develop a shared perspective on how to strike a balance between the need for heritage preservation and protection and the equally important need to promote sustainable development on the continent.

He said they will emerge from the conference with a common understanding on:

* The role of World Heritage in the sustainable development agenda in Africa;
* An evaluation of the critical role World Heritage Sites play in improving community livelihoods in Africa;
* The establishment of a framework to address conservation and development needs on the African Continent; and
* Providing guidance for policy development at national, regional and continental level on heritage preservation and sustainable development.

Mashatile said the resolutions and declaration of the conference will be tabled during the final occasion celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, scheduled for Japan in November this year.

"We carry on our shoulders an enormous task of ensuring that Africa speaks with one voice and that our voice is heard by the rest of the world," he said.

Minister Mashatile said the South African Government remains committed to further the African Union's vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.

He said Africa has made significant progress in ensuring balance and equity on the UNESCO World Heritage list, in particular for African countries.

"Over the past two years the African continent has listed no less than 10 sites on the World Heritage list; however note that our continent is still underrepresented on the list.

"Africa must therefore strive to put forward more of its places of Outstanding Universal Value for nomination to the List.

"We must also work hard to improve the status of our existing World Heritage Sites as part of efforts to build a more positive image of our Continent," he said.

The conference is convened as part of celebrations by the African Continent, of the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

Delegates at the conference include African Minister's responsible for Arts and Culture, Tourism, Environment and Conservation.