Establishment of Category 2 Centres on World Heritage officially launched

Two official signatures took place recently at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France to establish new Category 2 Centres dedicated to World Heritage preservation. The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH), to be established respectively in South Africa and Bahrain and operated under the auspices of UNESCO, are both dedicated to reinforcing the effective conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage and to improving the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in their respective States Parties.

The UNESCO-Republic of South Africa agreement for the establishment of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) as a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO was signed on 27 January by Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and Ms Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa, with Mr Themba P Wakashe, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, H. E. Dr Konji Sebati, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of South Africa to France, and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, also in attendance.

The UNESCO-Kingdom of Bahrain agreement for the establishment of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) as a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO was signed on 5 February by Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Muhammad Al-Khalifa, Bahraini Minister of Culture and Information, in the presence of H.E. Naser Al Belooshi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Bahrain to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Mr Ahmed Sayyed, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation and Mr Francesco Bandarin, Director of the World Heritage Centre.

A total of four new Category 2 Centres will form part of a wider network of World Heritage-related training and research centres and funds. All the centres will develop local capacity-building and aid States Parties in their regions to elaborate Tentative Lists and nomination files, as well as draw up periodic and state of conservation reports on World Heritage properties.

The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) was formally created on 5 May 2006 under the legislation of the Republic of South Africa to support the effective conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage of outstanding universal value in Africa. It will in particular undertake an inventory of the cultural and natural heritage of Africa. One challenge for this centre will be to increase the resources available by enlarging the circle of participants in World Heritage conservation in Africa. The centre will also work on strengthening legal, policy and institutional frameworks for effective heritage conservation and on heritage protection, conservation and management in conflict, post-conflict and natural disaster situations.

The Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) to be established in Bahrain will assist the Arab States Parties in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the region and provide a means of improving the application of World Heritage Committee decisions and recommendations, in addition to carrying out the wide-ranging aims of Category 2 Centres.

The ARC-WH will also aim to federate the numerous regional energies towards the promotion and preservation of cultural and natural heritage and to mobilize regional and international financial support for the conservation of World Heritage sites. To accomplish this, it will rely on three main axes (Information, Assistance and Logistic and financial support) and will draw on capacities from universities, as well as national, regional and international research centres and will host meetings, conferences, training workshops and exhibitions in the region. The centre has been designed to respond to the specific needs expressed in the first Periodic Report for the Arab States region.

Other new category 2 Centres include the Regional World Heritage Institute in Zacatecas (Mexico) and the Regional Heritage Management Training Center in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

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