04 May 2016
The South African Government would like to express its gratitude for hosting the African World Heritage Regional Youth Forum from the 28th April to the 4th May 2016. The forum has been eagerly anticipated by the Department of Arts and Culture with the pressing and growing concern to further the reach of World Heritage.
The forum happens as we mark the beginning of Africa Month under the theme: “Building a Better Africa and a Better World”. The month of May has been dedicated as Africa Month to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963, which is now called African Union (AU). The African month celebration is a festival of ideas and cultural exchanges which was inaugurated last year with the aim amongst others to entrench our African identity.
The African State Parties to UNESCO highlighted in the Second Periodic Report for Africa the need to recognise and include local communities, in particular the youth, in the management and conservation of World Heritage Sites. The role of the youth has also been re-emphasised in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063.
However, it has been difficult to address and achieve this goal without an appropriate and adequate platform. This initial youth forum is one step towards this goal, learning more directly from the youth on the best ways to involve them.
The forum has appropriately focused on World Heritage and sustainable development, an extremely topical and pertinent issue in Africa. With the increase of GDP in most African countries in the last decade, the relationship between sustainable development and World Heritage conservation is becoming a pressing challenge.
On 25th September 2015, the United Nations State Parties adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development comprising a set of seventeen goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure equitable prosperity for all as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. Sustainable Development should meet the present social-economic needs without compromising the future of World Heritage Sites. Sustainable Development equally considers environment, economics and social aspects.
The 24th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union reiterated in January 2015 their full appreciation and commitment to the ‘Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want’, a visionary document in which African aspirations are expressed. Issues related to heritage and sustainable development cross-cut the aspirations and share the same ground with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Robben Island World Heritage Site, one of South Africa’s most iconic sites, has been a fitting venue for this forum. The key involvement of numerous stakeholders at the site allows for an inter-generational dialogue with the youth.
The discussions, outcomes and debates of the last week provide necessary feedback to not only Robben Island Museum Staff but also to the African World Heritage Fund and UNESCO. The seven other World Heritage Sites in South Africa could benefit immeasurably by the innovative thinking and creative ideas of the youth.
This initial forum has clearly been successful, with the large number of applications received and the huge interest displayed by the media.
It is thus essential that this process continues to grow with hopefully the creation of annual youth forums in Africa. This will create a sustainable African youth network and a platform for the youth to respond to the ever increasing issues and challenges facing heritage in Africa. I encourage the participants to share their knowledge and create further platforms in their own countries.
There is a clear need for better education in the concepts and topics of World Heritage for the youth of Africa. Each State Party needs to play its part in contributing to this goal on a national level as well as reaching out to connect with fellow African countries.
Participants and partners, thank you for not only being part of the youth forum but also the 10th Anniversary of the African World Heritage Fund, launched 10 years ago on the 5 May 2006. The South African Government, in particular the Department of Arts and Culture, has had the honour to host the African World Heritage Fund over the last 10 years and we have recently renewed our agreement with UNESCO. We are looking forward to continue hosting and supporting the Fund here in South Africa.
In addition to the 10th anniversary of the Fund, we will also be celebrating the ‘African World Heritage Day’ tomorrow. This new international day on the 5th May was designated last year by UNESCO’s General Conference with the aim to promote understanding and appreciation of World Heritage especially among youth.
I am delighted by the far reaching Pan-African scope of this forum including 27 participants from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This was a momentous occasion for young people from all over Africa to exchange experiences, discuss common concerns, discover new roles for themselves in heritage conservation and have their voices heard.
Participants, I hope that the forum has met your expectations in the same way it has met ours. We thank you for your passion and motivation to conserve and promote Africa’s heritage.
I hope you will go home feeling enriched, invigorated and excited to take forward the ideas and lessons you have learnt to ensure heritage is a priority in African countries. The Department of Arts and Culture wishes you well and success in your future endeavours.
Finally, I would like to thank the African World Heritage Fund and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for developing this programme and for providing the Republic of South Africa with the opportunity to host the first Anglophone forum. Much appreciation must be extended to the Robben Island Museum for successfully hosting the forum and for opening the space to the Pan-African Agenda.
I thank you.