21.07.2017 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Ministers from Eastern Africa and the adjacent Indian Ocean Island States pledge to strengthen synergies for the protection of cultural heritage

Participants at the Opening Ceremony of the Regional Conference in Mauritius

On 20 July 2017 in Balaclava, Republic of Mauritius, Ministers responsible for culture in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Somalia and South Sudan issued a Joint Statement on Strengthening Synergies for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Eastern Africa and the adjacent Indian Ocean Island States, which included their intention to ratify international normative instruments in the field of cultural heritage protection.

The Ministers’ Statement is built on recommendations from a Regional Conference and Ministerial Roundtable on the protection of Cultural Heritage, which was organized on 18 and 19 July 2017 by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. The event was hosted by the Government of Mauritius Ministry of Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Mauritius National Commission for UNESCO, and received generous financial support from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The regional conference brought together the above-mentioned Ministers along with Ministerial representatives from Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, as well as participants from Regional Economic Commissions, UNESCO National Commissions and partner organisations to identify challenges as well as solutions for strengthening cultural heritage protection in the region.

The conference focused on the protection of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict as well as the fight in illicit trafficking of cultural property. Over 70 participants were able to learn more about key normative instruments for cultural heritage protection, such as the UNESCO 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999), the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and the UNIDROIT 1995 Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects, as well as the network of partners and resources, which provide a solid foundation for safeguarding cultural heritage.

Experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), and the Centre for Heritage Development in Africa (CHDA) were among the UNESCO partner organizations participating in the conference and sharing their expertise and resources.

The Conference was opened by: the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles, Mr. Simon Springett; the Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong Jatta; the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research, Hon. Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun; and Hon. Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Arts and Culture of Mauritius. The keynote address was given by Prof. Dr. George Abungu, archaeologist and international heritage consultant, who provided an overview of the current context of cultural heritage development and threats in the region as well as the interconnection of UNESCO Conventions for overall cultural heritage protection and promotion. He gave examples ranging from illicit trafficking of the Vigangos of the Kaya community in Kenya to the return of the Makondé Mask to the National Museum of Tanzania.

During his opening remarks, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Hon. Mr. Roopun, announced the Government of Mauritius’ intention to ratify the two protocols of the UNESCO 1954 Convention, and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention. The Director of UNESCO Regional Office, Ms. Ndong Jatta, called on all participants to join in the UNESCO #Unite for Heritage Campaign to raise awareness and mobilize support for the protection of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict and for the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property. She also underscored the role of culture in sustainable development.

A Survey was carried out prior to the conference and the results revealed the low level of legal and policy measures for the protection of cultural heritage, the low level of awareness of existing tools and resources as well as the need for capacity building and technical assistance.

The conference resulted in 10 recommendations to strengthen cultural heritage protection in the region, which ranged from the need to develop cultural indicators/statistics on the impact of culture on sustainable and economic development to the need for documentation and research, inventories and databases of cultural heritage and cultural property both nationally and regionally, to the need for a regional Fund to support efforts to protect cultural heritage. The Ministers built on these recommendations to develop their joint statement during the Ministerial Roundtable, which confirmed their commitment to become party to international legal instruments in the field of cultural heritage protection in order to strengthen their national heritage protection, and to increase collaborations in order to increase the level of cultural heritage protection regionally.

The words of the Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education of the Federal Republic of Somalia, H.E. Mr. Abdirahman Dahir Osman, during the opening session of the Ministerial Roundtable summed up the outcome of the conference well: “We are confident that by coming together with you here today, and by joining forces to protect our heritage, we can all become ‘Friends of East African Culture’ and mutually support our individual and collective efforts for heritage preservation.”

For more information, read the final following documents :

Final Agenda EN & FR

Final List of Participants

Conference Recommendations / Recommendations de la Conférence

Minister Statement / Déclaration des Ministres 

Final Report, in EN & in FR 

Regional Survey Result 

Visibility Report (social media and press clip)

Flickr Album: Regional Conference and Ministerial Roundtable for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the adjacent Indian Ocean Island States



Unite for Heritage Campaign

Armed conflict and Heritage

Culture at Risk

1970 Convention

1954 Convention

1995 UNIDROIT Convention

<- Back to: UNESCO Office in Nairobi
Back to top