Kabul Photo Biennale “The Afghanistan We Are Proud Of” | Salsal Buddha (Giant Western Buddha) in Bamiyan ©Mohammad Ali Sheida

Thematic Area 5: Safeguarding the cultural heritage of Afghanistan 

The built heritage of Afghanistan is widely recognized as a worthy cultural asset, being the tangible manifestation of a long history at the crossroad of diverse civilizations. Whilst many efforts have been made to preserve some of the most prominent monuments of the country, cultural sites are still regarded as isolated and exceptional occurrences, not relating to the life of a rapidly changing Afghan society.

The approach to tangible heritage as sacrosanct and in permanent ‘danger’ does not favor the establishment of a sense of ownership among local communities, and can, thereby, reduce its potential as a tool for social integration and economic development.

Thematic Area 5 aims at turning around this approach to ‘built heritage’, and to do so will start from historical urban contexts where controlled processes of change through concrete actions can generate immediate benefits for local communities and foster the ideas that their heritage is an important aspect of their identity and that its preservation is not an obstacle to development.

The promotion of rehabilitation works in historic urban contexts, as well as the parallel development of management plans for their safeguard and sustainable development, will offer the opportunity to materialize a number of immediate and long-term benefits:

- better living conditions of local communities still dwelling and working in historic urban contexts, through the rehabilitation of residential and public spaces;

- incomes through direct job opportunities in rehabilitation works and/or through the sustainable re-use of existing buildings, including the possibility of hosting tourism services and spaces for the promotion of creative economy and cultural events;

- management instruments for relevant authorities allowing them to safeguard historic contexts through controlled changes;

- the preservation of the historic environment of monuments as a key contribution to their immediate protection and long-term management;

- integrated conservation on monuments and sites whereby these spaces become part of a unique urban living system for the benefit of the community.

In this Thematic Area, the NPCE is currently considering heritage management plans for the Old City of Herat and for a section of the Bamiyan Valley as an Archaeological Park.  Other projects deriving from these activities would be a conservation plan for the Minaret area in Herat with its transformation into an archaeological park for the benefit of the Herati, the rehabilitation for social equipment of significant buildings and landmarks in the Old City of Herat such as the Silk Caravanserai and the Tim Che Zard.

These initiatives will consolidate feelings of national identity and ownership for a past that is present and need play a role in the future of the country.  They will also provide a positive environment for Afghanistan heritage sites’ candidacy to the World Heritage List.

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