13 July 2005

Africa to establish its own World heritage fund

In an effort to secure the future of some of the African continent's most precious landmarks, world conservation leaders have given overwhelming support for Africa to have its own World Heritage Fund.

Speaking at the 29th World Heritage Committee Meeting at the International Convention Centre in Durban, minister of arts and culture Pallo Jordan said it was accepted that creating such a fund would help alleviate poverty constraints associated with the maintenance and care of designated heritage sites.

Jordan said the African Position Paper presented to the World Heritage Committee focused on African natural, cultural and mixed sites.

The idea of the fund, he said, stemmed from a preparatory meeting with African state delegations which in part dealt with establishing such a resource facility.

"The fund will help in the process of compiling national inventories, in conservation and management assistance of heritage sites, and in rehabilitation support for endangered heritage sites," he said.

"The fund has received 100 percent support from all delegates, including all observers and specialised bodies. This in spite of the many difficulties facing African countries."

China, the Netherlands, India and Israel have already pledged financial support, with other states offering other forms of assistance.

According to Jordan, 40 percent of the world’s endangered sites are in Africa.

"The fund is important for sustainable development and also to eradicate poverty on the African continent.

Conservation and preservation of our heritage is important in the fight against poverty," he said.

Jordan said South Africa had an interesting mix of sites which needed to be preserved for future generations.

"We have six great sites which display both culture and heritage. The fact that the Vredefort Dome (a crater structure south-west of Johannesburg) could be made into South Africa's seventh heritage site is very exciting," said Jordan.

Minister of tourism and environmental affairs Marthinus van Schalkwyk said South Africa's heritage sites were important as all people were custodians of heritage.

"Africa has taken an important step in setting up the fund to help preserve heritage sites. We must use the past to enrich our future," he said.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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