04.12.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Eritrea takes a holistic approach to the conservation and management of the modernist city of Asmara World Heritage site

Participants in the HUL workshop in Asmara, 3 December 2018 (c)UNESCO/K.Monteil

A new UNESCO project funded by the Government of The Netherlands is supporting the State Party of Eritrea’s efforts to strengthen the conservation and management of Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa World Heritage property using the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape Approach.

Eritrea’s capital city Asmara was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017 as “an exceptional example of early modernist urbanism from the beginning of the 20th century and its adaptation to an African context. It represents important and early developmental phases of town planning and architectural modernism that are presently still fully reflected in its layout, urban character and architecture.”

From 3 to 7 December 2018, the State Party of Eritrea organized a capacity building workshop in Asmara on applying the UNESCO 2011 Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation (HUL) to the Conservation Master Plan for Asmara: A Modernist City of Africa World Heritage property. Twenty participants including Eritrean architects and urban experts, local stakeholders and decision-makers attended the workshop.

The workshop is the first of two capacity building workshops that are part of the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO Project “Conservation of Asmara: the Modernist City of Africa, Eritrea,” which is being managed by the Asmara Heritage Project (the site management authority for Eritrea’s first World Heritage site) in partnership with the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. The first workshop aims to provide capacity building on the HUL Recommendation, its objectives and tools for the Asmara Heritage Project, and is being facilitated by Dr. Muhammad Juma, Architect and Director of Urban and Rural Planning from Zanzibar together with Mr. Medhanie T. Maryam, Director of the Asmara Heritage Project with support from Ms. Karalyn Monteil, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture.

The week-long workshop included an introduction to three key UNESCO Conventions that need to be taken into consideration in the development and implementation of Eritrea’s management and conservation plan for the World Heritage site, namely the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the 2003 Convention on safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and the 2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

The international expert, Dr. Muhammad, provided the participants with an overview of the history of urban planning as well as case studies of urban planning at cities in Africa. After an in depth overview of the HUL recommendation, Dr. Muhammad led the participants on a reflection of the application of HUL to the Eritrean context. The site management authorities, Asmara Heritage Project, also provided a briefing on the management of Asmara including land use and development, issuing of permits, investment processes, etc. Throughout the workshop, the importance of close community participation and involvement in the management process was highlighted as the key to sustainable management of the city.

“We should not make historical cities museums,” said Dr. Muhammad, “but we have to manage the change in a dynamic way and with strong civic engagement,” he added. Dr. Muhammad also encouraged the participants to develop a Local Economic Development Plan for Asmara in order to ensure small businesses and local employment can thrive, as well as an Urban Development Funding system in order to sustain financial resources for the city.

Lastly, Dr. Muhammad used the holistic vision, advocated by the HUL approach, to provide technical advice to the Asmara Heritage Project and the Department of Public Works Development in order to develop recommendations and a roadmap for the further implementation of the World Heritage Committee Decision 41BCOM 8B.11 for Asmara World Heritage property.

The second workshop of the project will be organized in early 2019, after which the site management authority will work on finalizing the Urban Conservation Master Plan and the Planning Norms and Technical Regulations for Asmara World Heritage site. “These different management and planning instruments are crucial to complementing existing legal protection of Asmara to ensure the preservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value,” said Ms. Monteil. “They will ensure that the urban and built fabric, its human and distinctively African modernist character, are preserved, through favouring proactive maintenance, conservation and rehabilitation of its urban fabric and spaces,” she added. The second workshop will also reinforce the capacities of participants to develop strategies for ensuring a steady influx of financial resources for the site.

Lastly, the project foresees the organization of a special public event in Asmara on 5 May 2019 in celebration of African World Heritage Day, which will raise awareness of the World Heritage values in Asmara and mobilize the local community to join in the conservation efforts.


World Heritage Convention

Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

Historic Urban landscape approach explained

Partnerships for World Heritage Cities

Managing Historic Cities

Historic Districts for all; a social and human approach for sustainable revitalisation

African World Heritage Day

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