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UAE fund backs Africa’s world heritage restoration projects

The announcement came during an event held by the Africa Group at UNESCO headquarters in the French capital, Paris, coinciding with Africa Day celebrations on May 25 and Africa Week….reports Asian Lite News

The UAE, represented by the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has announced a fund to support world heritage, document conservation and capacity building initiatives at a number of sites across Africa.

The fund will be launched in collaboration with the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH) and the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF).

The announcement came during an event held by the Africa Group at UNESCO headquarters in the French capital, Paris, coinciding with Africa Day celebrations on May 25 and Africa Week.

The event was attended by Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth; Firmin Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations of UNESCO; Souayibou Varissou, Executive Director of the African World Heritage Fund; and Valéry Freland, Executive Director of the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH).

Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates to UNESCO, and representatives of non-governmental organisations and the private sector were also present at the event.

The Ministry of Culture and Youth will represent the UAE, and become a Platinum Partner of the African World Heritage Fund.

The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) is an intergovernmental organisation created in 2006 by the African Union and UNESCO to support the effective conservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage in Africa.

The main objective of the AWHF is to address the challenges faced by African States Parties in the implementation of the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention, specifically, the underrepresentation of African sites on the World Heritage List and the conservation and management of these sites.

The UAE’s contributions also aim to build the capacities of local communities, while ALIPH, which the UAE co-founded in 2017 in collaboration with France, will implement three projects in Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.

In a statement, Sheikh Salem bin Khalid Al Qassimi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said, “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. Heritage plays a significant role in intercultural dialogue, it enhances diversity, tolerance, coexistence and peace in societies.”

He stressed that working to preserve heritage in Africa is of particular importance, due to the cultural significance that the continent enjoys and its enormous civilisational heritage, which represents an important part of human history and culture. Preservation of these elements will reinforce its magnificent cultural legacy. Heritage conservation efforts can make a strong socioeconomic impact and lead to sustainable development with local community participation, empowering its members and to play an active role with tangible benefits, as well as promote tourism. It is these holistic objectives that the UAE will be aiming to achieve through these projects, he emphasised.

These projects will be implemented in cooperation with local governments, alongside local and international partners. One of the projects that will benefit from the initiative is the restoration of the National Cultural Heritage Inventory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The restoration work on this project is being carried out in two phases. The first phase has already been completed granted by ALIPH with the support of the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth, with the help of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

The project has so far trained 29 specialists from relevant institutions in DRC in the field of documentation and inventory preparation. The second phase of the project is scheduled to begin in 2024.

A significant part of the fund will be allocated to revitalise one of the oldest preserved Sudanese mosques at Dongola, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

This project has been undertaken by the University of Warsaw along with the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA) in partnership with the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM).

Urgent conservation work on the Dongola Mosque began early this year and will go on for three years, with the project also providing on-the-job training opportunities for Sudanese experts, creating 60 jobs in the process for city residents.

One of the most significant projects under the current programme will be the restoration of the Yemrehana Krestos Church in Ethiopia, which is considered one of the most symbolic sites in the country in the Amhara region. It encompasses a palace and a church dating back to the 11th-12th centuries.

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