DUBAI: The UAE has announced the establishment of a fund to support world heritage, document conservation, and capacity building projects at a number of sites across Africa, Emirates News Agency reported on Thursday.
The announcement was made during an event held by the Africa Group at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The fund will be established in partnership with the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas and the African World Heritage Fund.
The UAE will be represented by the Ministry of Culture and Youth as a Platinum Partner of the African World Heritage Fund.
The AWHF is an intergovernmental organization created in 2006 by the African Union and UNESCO to support the effective conservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage in Africa. The African Union and UNESCO formed the AWHF in 2006 to support the effective conservation and protection of Africa’s cultural and natural assets. Its primary goal is to address the challenges faced by African nations in their underrepresentation on the World Heritage List, as well as the protection and management of their sites.
The UAE’s efforts will also aim to strengthen local communities, while ALIPH, which the UAE co-founded with France in 2017, will implement three projects in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.
“In the UAE, we are committed to conserving human heritage in all its forms, and strengthening partnerships with international organisations actively working in this field, out of our belief in the importance of preserving this heritage for future generations, and the role it plays,” Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al-Qassimi, minister of culture and youth, said.
“Heritage plays a significant role in intercultural dialogue, it enhances diversity, tolerance, coexistence and peace in societies," Al-Qassimi added.
He also emphasized the need to conserve heritage in Africa, owing to the continent’s cultural significance and immense civilisational heritage, which forms an essential part of human history and culture.
He also stressed that among the most important reasons for the UAE to implement this project at this time is the impact of climate change on tangible and intangible heritage in Africa. The launch of the fund also coincides with the UAE’s declaration of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, and the country’s hosting of COP28 in November.
“We are confident that with the support by the Ministry of Culture and Youth of the UAE, we will be able to better serve the continent in ensuring effective implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Africa,” AWHF Executive Director Souayibou Varissou said.
“This includes capacity-building programs, risk management and heritage tourism, and the invaluable support from the government of the UAE will boost our capability to make long-term impact about the inscription of African sites on the World Heritage List and the conservation and management of those sites as an asset for the sustainable growth of local communities,” Varissou said.
These projects will be carried out in collaboration with local governments, as well as local and international partners. The restoration of the DRC’s National Cultural Heritage Inventory is one of the initiatives that will benefit from the program.
This project’s restoration work is being done in two stages. The first phase has already been completed, thanks to ALIPH’s collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth and the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
So far, the initiative has trained 29 specialists from DRC institutions in the fields of documentation and inventory preparation. The project’s second phase is set to commence in 2024.
A large portion of the financing will be used to rehabilitate one of Sudan’s oldest preserved mosques, at Dongola, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
One of the most notable projects under the present program will be the restoration of Ethiopia’s Yemrehana Krestos Church, which is considered one of the country’s most important landmarks in the Amhara region. It includes a palace and a church from the 11th and 12th centuries.