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AAmatters at the World Heritage Committee session of 2015

On behalf of AAmatters, Nicole Bolomey as an observer attended the World Heritage Committee session, which this years took place in Bonn, Germany, from 28 June – 8 July. The session was an excellent opportunity to increase our knowledge and interaction with the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which is relevant in many of our activities in Africa, not least in Zanzibar. Nicole was present in Bonn for a week to attend sessions on the state of conservation of World Heritage properties, including Stone Town of Zanzibar, policy debates on heritage & sustainable development, events on Historic Urban Landscapes, an event by the African World Heritage Fund, and other interesting occasions. Antoni Folkers joined her for a day to jointly give technical support to the delegation of Zanzibar in preparing for the challenging debate in the plenary session on Tuesday 30 June. We also used our presence to meet various people relevant to our endeavour in Africa, be it from the Netherland delegation, the Zanzibari delegation, the World Heritage Centre or other relevant institutions.

Nicole reports on a few highlights from the week:

World Heritage in Africa

1. Stone Town of Zanzibar was discussed by the Committee, aside other challenges, due to issues pertaining to the serious conservation condition of the property, lack of effective management procedures and governance (see below reference to all documents). Although it was proposed to put Zanzibar on the List of World Heritage in Danger, a strong Zanzibari delegation successfully lobbied against this proposal, and expressed its commitment to work hard on improving matter before the Committee will meet again in one years time. The final decision of the World Heritage Committee thus recommends to the State Party of Tanzania, in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies (ICOMOS and ICCROM), to develop a set of corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation. It further invites the international community to provide assistance to strengthen management and conservation of the property and required capacities.

Public space in Stone Town of Zanzibar

The engagement of AAmatters since 2012, together with its partners City of Amsterdam, Stadsherstel, Swiss Landscape Architecture Association, and others, to foster heritage-based urban regeneration through technical assistance for planning policies, housing policies, public open spaces, and the development of Hifadhi Zanzibar (the local equivalent to Stadsherstel), will continue in this spirit, and we are looking towards our partners to equally commit and continue their vital support at this crucial moment in Zanzibar’s urban development. New donors may also be approached, as this is a real window of opportunity.

2. The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), a UNESCO Category II Centre based in Pretoria, South Africa, held an event on 1 July regarding their programme on Entrepreneurship at World Heritage Properties in Africa. The event, attended by app. 200 delegates, was most encouraging highlighting how local communities can benefit from World Heritage sites through economic capacity building and networking. Presentations focused on the recent case study of Lwande Mixed Farm Project at Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (Zambia). An award was given to His Royal Highness Chief Mukuni for his numerous actions in support to long-term conservation through entrepreneurial ventures at the Zambian component of Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

3. Nominations:

South Africa’s submission of an extension of their property Cape Floral Region Protected Areas was approved, however, no new African sites were listed as World Heritage. The three African sites, which were discussed in Bonn (Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay - Mukkawar Island Marine National Park in Sudan; Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape in Kenya; and Nyero and other hunter-gatherer geometric rock art sites in eastern Uganda), were all referred. This means that supplementary information needs to be provided for these sites to be reconsidered for listing in the Committee session of 2016.

Other aspects pertaining to World Heritage nominations: Djibouti and South Africa submitted a revised Tentative List, and three existing African properties put forward their retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, the document, which is at the basis of the protection, conservation and management of any World Heritage property. These were Mozambique: Island of Mozambique; Senegal: Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary; United Republic of Tanzania: Stone Town of Zanzibar.

Urban issues and the World Heritage Convention

4. The current revision of the Operational Guidelines, which is due every four years, included work on urban heritage and conservation, in particular with reference to the integration of the Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation (2011) of UNESCO. Although it was decided that further work would be needed on this complex subject, namely to produce a guidance document on urban heritage for States Parties, some amendments to the Operational Guidelines were introduced in order not to delay the mainstreaming of the social, cultural, economic and environmental parameters in the conservation or urban World Heritage.

Amendments that may be relevant to our work in Africa, pertain to the inclusion of participatory planning and stakeholder consultation processes (111a); the development of mechanisms for the involvement and coordination of the various activities between different partners and stakeholders (111d); and the notion that an effective and integrated approach to management and planning goes beyond the property to include any buffer zone(s), and the broader setting, as it may relate to the property’s topography, natural and built environment, and other elements such as infrastructure, land use patterns, spatial organization, and visual relationships. It may also include related social and cultural practices, economic processes and other intangible dimensions of heritage such as perceptions and associations. Management of the broader setting will be related to its role in supporting the Outstanding Universal Value (112).

The Historic Urban Landscape of Ng’ambo in Zanzibar (photo Steven Zijlstra)

5. The Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) recommendation of 2011 was the subject of a side event on Friday 3 July. The focus of the session was the remembrance of Ron van Oers, who was so instrumental in initiating, developing, and promoting HUL, and who died far too young and unexpectedly in May 2015 while on mission in Tibet. Ron was instrumental in linking East African historic cities like Lamu, Ilha de Mocembique, and Zanzibar to the development of HUL and promoting them as case studies. As the event brought together a great number of urban actors working on HUL, the event did also include an outlook: The GO-HUL initiative. This ‘Global Observatory on the Historic Urban Landscape’ is an effort to unite and foster the cooperation between urban actors and communities worldwide to share resources, activities and outcomes. AAmatters will be part of this observatory through its work with the Zanzibar Department of Urban and Rural Planning.

4. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been developed by the UN to follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which will end in 2015. Urban actors, as well as the culture and heritage lobby, have advocated over the past two years for the inclusion of crucial aspects of their field. The result was presented at a side event on 2 July in Bonn. A link was created to the upcoming HABITAT III conference of 2016, a forum only taking place every 20 years.

What matters to our work in Africa: One out of 17 SDG’s solely focuses on urban issues. It is SDG 11 and reads: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. While there is no SDG directly targeting culture or heritage, there are a number of SDGs, and related targets, that make reference to the same and are thus relevant to our work in Africa. These include: o 11.1 promotes access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services, and upgrade slums o 11.4 asks to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage; o 4.7 promotes sustainable development through the appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development; o 8.9 asks to devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products; o 12.b requests to develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products

What currently is going on: On one hand, the SDG framework is further refined in order to become operational. Indicators are being discussed for the SDGs and their targets, which will help to measure the impact of activities within each goal. On the other hand, HABITAT III is being prepared – focusing on SDG 11. Keeping in mind 11.4 mentioned above, this gives a window for heritage-based urban regeneration to take front stage. UNESCO is therefore preparing a report on the role of urban heritage in development, and will hold several events to prepare for the Quito in end 2016. AAmatters will keep abreast with development, and support Zanzibar in its participation in these events.


All documents from the World Heritage Committee Session are to be found here. The Zanzibar draft decision by the WH Committee can be found at WHC-/39.COM/7BAdd page 64. The final, modified decisions will be online shortly as the World Heritage Centre prepares its final report. The Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value: WHC-/39.COM/8E.Rev. The Draft of revised Operational Guidelines: whc15-39com-11-Annex1-opguide15-en.pdf

The decisions of the meeting can be found here.

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