Local Community Empowerment and Preservation of Shahr-e Gholghola, the World Heritage site in Bamiyan

Sharh-e-Gholghola ©Ghulam Reza Mohammadi | UNESCO


Funded by the government of Italy from 2013 to 2014, UNESCO has led the first phase project entitled ‘Heritage Conservation, Development and Coordination for Afghanistan’. This project has managed successfully to raise positive public awareness of its intentions, focusing on social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and peace, through the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan and the ancient site of Shahr-e Gholghola in particular.

To reinforce the achievements of the activities at Bamiyan, the project has commenced in 2017 for major study and conservation work at Shahr-e Gholghola which aims to address in its way the overarching mandate of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Whilst attempting to preserve Shahr-e Gholghola at the Bamiyan World Heritage site, the Project is aimed at fostering equitable local sustainable development, by helping to create opportunities for it in regional communities. These moves will promote development of decent incomes and sustainable livelihoods for local people at Bamiyan, including marginalized populations, through tourism initiatives, the fostering of creative industries, and traditional craftsmanship. Economic sustainability in this area, particularly that flowing from future tourism, and the community’s own sense of belonging, is reliant now on conservation of the Shahr-e Gholghola site at Bamiyan and its cultural and physical environment. This area’s unique landscape and the world-famous historical and cultural assets of the broad Bamiyan area will, through this new project, contribute massively to the future cultural and economic well-being of local populations.

Through continuing preservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bamiyan and of Shahr-e Gholghola in particular, along with promotion of local sustainable economic development, this Project is aimed at making major use of local resources and skills. It aims to preserve local knowledge systems and infrastructures, both of local communities and of notable individuals and so contribute to the strengthening of their social and economic resilience. The Project will eventually attempt to explore a holistic heritage management approach in Bamiyan, promoting recognition of the World Heritage site as a tool protecting and promoting wider values. These goals will include an emphasis on local people’s connection to the site developed through heritage education, with a view to ensuring the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Bamiyan World Heritage site as a whole. The Shahr-e Gholghola Project will endeavour also to promote heritage awareness and education among local women and young people, in particular the Bamiyan university students and local youth NGOs, as well as within the broader community.

The current project is designed on the basis of the draft recommendations made by the 12th Bamiyan Expert Working Group meeting in Orvieto, Italy in December 2013, and the results of the Italian ‘Funds-in Trust’ project ‘Heritage Conservation, Development and Coordination Project for Afghanistan’ carried out in 2013 and 2014. The activities specifically prioritised in this project aim to contribute first to the removal of the ‘Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley’ from the World Heritage List in Danger and then to enhance local capacities in site management and sustainable development programs of all kinds. The Project contains the following main four components;

Activity 1. Creation of an overall rehabilitation plan by creation of an archaeological park at Shahr-e Gholghola following archaeological and conservation works at the World Heritage Site of Bamiyan;

Activity 2: Conservation of terrain at the foothill of Shahr-e Gholghola for long term safeguarding of the site;

Activity 3: Organization of workshops for the cultural mapping of Bamiyan, manufacture of handicrafts, and tourism development initiatives; and

Activity 4: Raising awareness through on-site use of signage, publications and audio visual materials

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