As part of the Third Cycle of the Periodic Reporting Exercise in Africa, over 75 participants from 46 African State Parties with 95 World Heritage properties (52 cultural, 38 natural and 5 mixed) held a meeting at Grand Bassam, Cote-d’Ivoire, from 11 to 14 September 2019.
The UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa supported the participation of national focal points from Eritrea, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda in a regional meeting that aimed to review the progress and challenges faced by State Parties in implementing the UNESCO 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in the Africa Region.
The regional meeting, organized by the World Heritage Centre in cooperation with the UNESCO Offices in the Africa region and in close collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and the Advisory Bodies, aims to familiarize the National Focal Points of the Africa region with the Periodic Reporting statutory processes of the World Heritage Convention. It also aims to provide them with the tools to support the World Heritage Site Managers in their reporting exercises.
Since the launch of the First and Second Cycles of World Heritage Periodic Reporting in the Africa Region in 2002 and 2011, the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the region has shown improvement over the years, including increased representation of natural, cultural and mixed sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List—with 95 properties from 46 African countries (including 34 sites from the Eastern Africa region). Nevertheless, 16 of these sites from the Africa region (including 4 from Eastern Africa) are inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which raises a red flag about threats to the sites and mobilizes technical and financial support from the international community to safeguard the ‘Outstanding Universal Values’ for which they were inscribed on the World Heritage List. Most of the Danger listed sites have faced challenges related to insecurity and armed conflicts. In the Eastern Africa region, sites were inscribed on the Danger List for threats from poaching, unsustainable development, fire and illegal logging.
The Report from the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting in Africa (2011) identified capacity building needs in the fields of: Community outreach; Risk Preparedness; Enforcement of legislative frameworks and policies; Conservation; Education and site interpretation/promotion; Visitor and tourism management. In the sub-regional meetings, the establishment of functional networks, which involve cooperation among sites managers and universities was also identified as of great importance to enhance the capacity building and experience sharing processes.
Each periodic reporting cycle adopts an Action Plan to meet the challenges and priorities identified by State Parties for implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the region. The Action Plan helps guide UNESCO and its partners’ support in the region.
The Third Periodic Reporting Cycle in the Africa region will be implemented in several steps and involve a series of sub-regional and regional meetings through 2021. Following the launching meeting in Cote d’Ivoire in September 2019, the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa will organize an Anglophone workshop from 19 to 21 February 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya. The Anglophone workshop will gather 100 participants including 22 National Focal Points, 61 Sites Managers, UNESCO experts, Advisory Bodies, AWHF and other technical/financial partners. The aim is to further discuss issues raised at the regional launching meeting with a focus on the Anglophone countries and Mozambique. The participants will also complete Section II of the Questionnaire and further carry out an initial analysis of the information gathered so far.
During the four-day meeting in Cote-d’Ivoire, participants, mostly National Focal Points, were briefed on the outcomes of Action Plan of the Second Cycle, Periodic Reporting process, and the new introduction of the revised questionnaire. Representatives of the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention, IUCN and ICOMOS presented specific aspects of the Outstanding Universal Value of sites and their attributes. The exercise helps lead to a number of useful discussions and sharing of experience between the Focal Points of the region and to promote regional cooperation.
The main foreseen outcomes of the meeting include the establishment of closer contacts between the Focal Points with a view to future cooperation on Periodic Reporting, and the defining of the role of the AWHF as the key regional partner for the Periodic Reporting in the Africa region.
Periodic Reporting is one of the core conservation monitoring mechanisms of the World Heritage Convention. Every six years, the State Parties are invited to submit to the World Heritage Committee a Periodic Report on the application of the World Heritage Convention in their territory.
Reporting in the Africa region will last approximately 10 months and will run from September 2019 to July 2020. During this time, participants will gather relevant information and complete and submit their questionnaires. Further meetings on Periodic Reporting for World Heritage Site Managers in the region are foreseen for winter 2020.
The final Periodic Report for World Heritage in the Africa region will be presented to the World Heritage Committee in June/July 2021.