By Lincoln G. Peters
A three-day capacity building and training session for the nomination of World Heritage sites in the African region has opened in Monrovia.
The initiative is organized by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs & Tourism (MICAT), in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Heritage Center (WHC).
The program focuses on needs assessment for Liberia to update the tentative list, including East Nimba Natural Reserve (ENNR); Gola Rainforest (Lofa- Mano National Park); and Sapo National Park. The tentative list also includes the Kpatawee Waterfall.
The capacity building and training session opened Wednesday, 29 June 2022 at the National Museum, Broad Street which will run until 1 July 2022.
Mr. Lance K. Gbagonyon, Deputy Minister for Cultural Affairs & Tourism, said in 2021, the Government of Japan signed an agreement with UNESCO to support the “Capacity Building Program for Nomination of World Heritage Sites in the Africa Region.”
While giving the purpose of the program, Mr. Gbagonyon explained that it aims to support 10 countries in the African region without inscribed properties (Burundi, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, and Eswatini) to develop strong and credible nomination dossiers.
The countries also include Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan.
He told the gathering, “This four-year program (June 2021-June 2025) for the nomination of World Heritage sites in the African region aims to build the capacity of African heritage experts.”
Mr. Gbagonyon added that it aims to increase the number of African sites inscribed on the World Heritage list while ensuring that current and future African World Heritage properties remain in a satisfactory state of the conversation.
According to Gbagonyon, the main objective of the program is to develop strong nomination dossiers for non-represented State Parties and to build the capacity of local heritage practitioners in heritage conversation and management.
It further aims to train at least three local heritage practitioners to strengthen their capacities in nomination, conversation and management.
Additionally, it seeks to create a national inter-ministerial committee for heritage; update the tentative list of Liberia; and develop a complete and solid nomination file.
It will sensitize stakeholders (decision-makers, local communities, youth and women) to the value benefits of protecting and promoting their natural and cultural heritage, including their potential world heritage sites.
Talking further about the program, Mr. Gbagonyon explained that under the objectives the following activities have been carried out: Local heritage practitioners trained to strengthen their capacities in the nomination, conversation and management.
He named “Improving Management Effectiveness in African World Heritage which was held online from 17 to 24 January 2022.”
To achieve the objective of the program, he said the government has a cultural working group including the private sector and international partners.
“Conservation is everyone’s business. If we have site for Liberia listed on the world heritage site, it will be a boost for Liberia’s cultural and tourism sector that will attract visitors and tourists,” he said.
Mr. Stevenson Seidi, National Program Director, UNESCO, said Liberia has missed out on many things because of the delay in ratifying cultural convention agreements that stand to benefit the cultural and tourism sector of the country.
“We can find out how we can move forward to push as much as we can that our voices reach the Legislature. Today Liberia cannot miss out on these opportunities of cultural heritage to ratify these conventions,” he said.
Mr. Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of World Heritage Centre, Paris, Chief of African Unit, said his institution is ready to follow recommendations in supporting the promotion of Liberia’s heritage.
Also remarking at the program, Dr. Annika Hiller, Country Director, World Chimpanzee, said Liberia has very special features which are very preserving and necessary for scientific research.
“It is something that we all need to do together. We need to ensure the forest survives, by this, we can bring benefits to the communities, and the country at large.”
“We all need to work together to reduce the illegal activities in the communities to make a wonderful achievement [in] Liberia,” she said.
The UNESCO Cultural Conventions to be ratified include the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003; and the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.
Others are the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005; Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001; and Protocol to the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific or Cultural Materials, with Annexes A to H 1976.
Further, conventions to be ratified are the Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed conflict 1954; and the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1999. –Edited by Winston W. Parley