18.07.2017 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Mobilizing on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Africa

Left figure - Makonde Mask returned to Tanzania ©ICOM Right figure - Bobo. Mask (Nyanga), 19eme siècle ©Brooklyn Museum

From West to East of the African continent, cultural actors and their partners will mobilize, from 18 to 20 July 2017, around questions concerning the protection of cultural heritage, as well as the threats relating to heritage, specifically the illicit trafficking of cultural property. Simultaneously from Senegal to Mauritius, two regional events are being organized by UNESCO to strengthen regional cooperation and common action for the protection of cultural heritage.

UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa (Sahel) and UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa are getting ready for two sub-regional meetings, organized respectively in Senegal and in the Republic of Mauritius. A platform for multilateral exchange and cooperation, UNESCO is organizing a working group in Dakar, Senegal, to establish a joint action to combat illicit trafficking of cultural property in the Sahel region. A regional conference and ministerial roundtable is also taking place in Port Louis, Mauritius to strengthen synergies for the protection of cultural heritage in East Africa and the Indian Ocean adjacent States.

Strengthening synergies for the protection of cultural heritage in East Africa and the Indian Ocean

The ministerial roundtable in Port Louis, Mauritius, will primarily target the ministers of culture in the region (Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda). This event will be of high relevance as it will be attended by ministers from different countries, representatives of regional economic communities and key partners in the protection of cultural heritage (such as INTERPOL, UNODC, UNIDROIT, ICOM , ICOMOS, AWHF, etc.). The discussion platform will enable the different national and international actors to share their experiences, innovative practices and policies in East Africa. More specifically, this meeting has four objectives:

  • Analyze the current level of cultural heritage protection in East Africa at the national and regional levels;
  • Raise awareness of the actions taken by UNESCO and the African Union in the field of culture; Inform stakeholders on the importance of international legal instruments and the benefits of their ratification;
  • Increase collaboration between the East African and Indian Ocean States in the field of cultural heritage protection;
  • Develop a framework for action with a road map of priorities for the protection of cultural heritage.

Towards joint actions to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property in the Sahel region

The Dakar working group will focus on illicit trafficking in cultural property (ITCP), and UNESCO will initiate a joint action to combat ITCP in the Sahel region. The working group will be composed of the Directors of Heritage and Museums from five countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. As the ITCP phenomenon is complex and involves many actors, heritage experts, customs and police services, specialized agencies such as ICOM, as well as the United Nations agencies, UNODC and UNOWAS, will take part. Greater mobilization by the authorities and closer cooperation between the countries of the sub region are essential to effectively combat trafficking. Participants will work to identify and prioritize the main issues to be solved, in view of strengthening cooperation between countries, as well as of ensuring careful attention and active involvement of the technical and financial partners. As a pragmatic and participatory meeting, the working group meeting has three main objectives:

  • Inform the participants on the state of the art of ITCP by country: validate the strategic note elaborated on this subject by the organizations and actors involved in the implementation of the integrated strategy of the United Nations for the Sahel;
  • Draw up a sub-regional map of the ITCP, identifying actors, spaces, traffic routes, and identify priority areas for action;
  • Develop a concept note for the implementation of priority actions to combat ITCP in the Sahel region, for presentation to potential financial partners.

Two complementary meetings

In a context where culture too often lacks consideration in national development policies, it becomes urgent to raise awareness among the actors concerned. Indeed, threats to cultural heritage have increased in many African countries, such as Mali, where the 2012 crisis has had serious consequences for the heritage. Moreover, these two meetings, which intend to act against these threats, are also complementary since they combine as much a political advocacy work in Port-Louis on one hand, as technical work for the elaboration of a concrete strategy in Dakar, with the objective of acquiring legal and operational competencies, necessary for the protection of the heritage.

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