Experts from nearly 40 countries, including 12 outside the Africa region, gathered in Arusha (Tanzania) for the international conference "Safeguarding African World Heritage as a Driver of Sustainable Development" co-organized by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the United Republic of Tanzania and the People's Republic of China, from 31 May to 3 June 2016.
In his opening statement, the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Kassim M Majaliwa declared, “We strongly believe that the delicate balance between these two precepts (sustainable development and conservation) can and will be achieved through co-operation at all levels”. The representative of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Mechtild Rössler, highlighted that “this international conference is a direct response from UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre to the need to increase public awareness on the tremendous potential of heritage in general, and more specifically World Heritage, in fostering sustainable development throughout the African continent”.
The discussions that took place during the four-day conference reflected the concern for ‘planet, people, prosperity and peace’, considered of critical importance by the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. Presentations covered pressing contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, inclusive social and economic development, and fostering peace and security through heritage safeguarding.
On the final day of the conference at the World Heritage site of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the participants adopted a declaration reaffirming the importance of heritage for preserving and promoting culture, and as a driver of sustainable development. Recognizing the need for sustainable solutions to the many challenges facing Africa, including climate change, natural and human-made disasters, populations growth, rapid urbanization, destruction of heritage and environmental degradation, the declaration calls on African nations to develop and implement policies that promote heritage, prevent conflicts and restore peace and security, promote social cohesion and involve local communities, particularly women and youth. Moreover, it appeals to international finance institutions, industry, the private sector, and multi and bilateral partners to undertake development projects with innovative solutions, and requests support from the World Heritage Committee, States Parties and civil society. The declaration also refers explicitly to the 2014 Social Responsibility Declaration by Chinese Enterprises in Africa, which invites Chinese enterprises in Africa to respect culture and customs and protect the local environment and natural resources
“This is an unprecedented step forward for the safeguarding of African World Heritage,” declared Edmond Moukala, Chief of the Africa Unit of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “This landmark declaration encompasses the full range of stakeholders -- from policy makers to civil society – and will enable us to unite our efforts and make tangible changes to the ways we protect our sites, with a vision towards the future.”
The declaration will be submitted to the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention, UNESCO, development partners, and representatives of industry, civil society and local communities.