World Heritage Day: We must preserve our history

“A people without knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots,” said Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jnr, a Jamaican political activist, Pan-Africanist, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.


Just as a tree without roots will ultimately die, so will people without the knowledge of their past, history or origin not know where they came from or who they are.

This will, consequentially, affect their future or what becomes of them.

It is, therefore, incumbent on any human race not only to jealously guard the knowledge of where it comes from but also to preserve its culture, history and the traits that make it unique and shape its destiny. 

The International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as World Heritage Day, is an international observance that has been held on April 18, each year, around the world since 1983, to celebrate the remarkable cultural and natural sites acknowledged by UNESCO's Heritage List.

While it was in 1984 that the first sites received the prestigious World Heritage designation, highlighting their global importance and prompting national efforts for their protection, it was in 2002 that the Day’s official name changed to World Heritage Day, to solidify its link to the World Heritage List and broaden its focus to encompass both cultural and natural sites.

This year’s celebration is on the theme; “Discover and experience diversity” and the most important aspect of this day is to raise awareness of the importance of the designated sites and inspire action for their preservation.

Ghana is strongly represented on the list with its concentration of forts and castles that not only tell how the Ghanaian people have evolved but represent the entire world’s history.

At the last count in 2023, over 1,150 sites adorned the Heritage List, representing the remarkable diversity of human cultures and the wonders of the natural world that need protection and preservation.

Aside from the forts and castles such as the Cape Coast, the St George’s d’Elmina (Elmina) and the Christiansborg Castle and 15 forts (Good

Hope at Senya Beraku; Patience at Apam; Amsterdam at Abandzi; St Jago at Elmina; San Sebastian at Shama; Metal Cross at Dixcove among a host of others, other sites have been identified and tentatively listed on the World Heritage List.

They are the Kakum National Park, the Mole National Park, the Navrongo Catholic Cathedral, the Nzulezu Stilt Settlement, Tengzug – Tallensi settlements and the Trade Pilgrimage Routes of North-Western Ghana.

According to UNESCO, “these fortified trading posts, founded between 1482 and 1786, and spanning a distance of approximately 500 km along the coast of Ghana between Keta in the east and Beyin in the west, were links in the trading routes established by the Portuguese in many areas of the world during their era of great maritime exploration. 

“The castles and forts were built and occupied at different times by traders from Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain. They served the gold trade of European chartered companies. Latterly, they played a significant part in the developing slave trade and, therefore, in the history of the Americas and subsequently, in the 19th Century, in the suppression of that trade.”

This alone tells us that we have a great responsibility on our hands to protect the world’s history and craft deliberate policies and programmes to sustainably manage the sites.

It is not for nothing that in 1959, UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which has culminated in the celebration of the World Heritage Day.

This day continues to be a global platform for highlighting the irreplaceable value of heritage sites and the threats they face, from climate change to human activities, celebrating the diversity of cultures and fostering understanding among communities across the globe and encouraging individuals, governments and organisations to contribute to the preservation and management of these exceptional places.

It is a call to action. It urges us to go beyond mere celebration and take concrete steps to protect these irreplaceable treasures. Whether visiting a site, volunteering, supporting conservation efforts or advocating policy changes, every action counts in safeguarding our shared legacy for generations to come.

The World Heritage Day is not just a day for celebration but a day for reflection, action and commitment.

Let us adequately resource the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board which oversees the sites and monuments for the benefit of all.


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