30.03.2011 - UN in Albania

Citizens key role in revitalizing cultural monuments in Gjirokastra and Berat

©Jason RogersBerat, Albania

Local authorities specialized in the area of cultural monuments, national and international partners working in the area of cultural heritage, local citizens and owners of monumental houses participated at the launch of a project for raising awareness and informing citizens about their role in the revitalization of historic houses in Berat.

United Nations in Albania news (17/03/2011) : Gjirokastra and Berat have more than 1000 historic buildings known as Cultural Monuments. The great ensembles of construction that the cities represent are highly rated internationally, allowing for their acceptance in the prestigious World Heritage list of UNESCO.

For this reason, the project will be implemented in the two most important historical cities of Albania, where a large part of the country’s heritage is concentrated. A key issue identified during the past few years is the lack of understanding among citizens and owners of buildings on their role in the preservation and revitalization of such buildings and also relevant legislation on conservation, restoration and revitalization of Monuments of Culture.

Mr. Fadil Nasufi, Mayor of Berati during the event thanked all the actors who have been an integral part of the whole process, dealing with the conservation, revitalization and restoration of historical values and cultural heritage. “I encourage all Berati citizens to contribute to our cultural heritage which unites us more because the past and the future of Berati are tightly bounded with cultural heritage”.

The project foresees the publication of a 'how to guide' on restoration methods, procedures and best practices from Albania.

Present at the event, Mr. Erkan Őzçelik, Programme Coordinator of the UN Joint Programme on Culture and Heritage said: “With the inscription of Berat and Gjirokastra on the World Heritage List, the role of local actors to conserve and restore buildings is becoming increasingly important as tourism becomes also an even more important lifeline for Albanians. In this respect, this project comes in the right time. It is becoming increasingly clear that restoration alone will not sustain the maintenance needed by these buildings and that their actual use or reuse can make the preservation of these monuments possible. Using them, in a sustainable manner, for economic gain, is the most sustainable way to ensure they are preserved and safe from harm, degradation or abusive use. Citizens can be part of the difficult and sometimes complex process of conservation and restoration”.

Berati citizens present at the even supported the initiative.

“I think this is a very good initiative, it is necessary and comes in the right time. I think we should consolidate what our parents have left us and pass it on to our children”- Mr. Jorgji Bendi, a Berati resident said.

There are good examples of how traditional private buildings in Berat, Gjirokastra and elsewhere, are being used as inns for tourism or other purposes.

"Of course a single project cannot solve all the accumulated problems but is a step in the right direction. Citizen’s awareness is a long process”, says Sadi Petrela, Director of Gjirokastra Conservation and Development Organization and Project Coordinator. “We are also aware that the prevailing opinion is that the main problem in maintaining and revitalizing built heritage is the lack of investment. But we think that by raising awareness and informing citizens we can contribute more to the mobilization of investments by the state, citizens and businesses. We plan to bring these important actors closer to invest more in the revitalization of Built Cultural Heritage."

This project is implemented by Gjirokastra Conservation and Development Organization (GCDO) in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Institute of Monuments, supported by the UN Joint Programme "Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development". The project is financed by the Spanish funded Millennium Development Goals – Fund (MDG-F).

Source : http://www.un.org.al/subindex.php?faqe=news&newsid=301

Links : Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra (World Heritage List)

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