A three-day capacity-building workshop on the United Nations Convention for the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage opened in Accra yesterday [June 7, 2022].
Participants from The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana include site managers of heritage sites, focal persons of the convention in the five Anglophone West African countries and government representatives.
Known as the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted it in November 1972 as a global recommendation for protecting cultural and natural heritage at the national level.
The World Heritage Convention is one of the most important global conservation instruments created primarily to identify and protect the world's natural and cultural heritage considered to be of outstanding universal value.
Ghana ratified the convention in 1975, making it one of the very first signatories of the now almost universally ratified document, with 194 State Parties, 50 of them being African countries.
Some 167 of the State Parties have currently inscribed 1,154 cultural and heritage sites.
Opening the workshop, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, said the management of world heritage sites was an important issue that deserved attention.
“This workshop presents an opportunity to discuss and share experiences from different countries to deepen our understanding of the 1972 convention and management requirements for our World Heritage Sites,” he said in speech read on his behalf by the Director of Arts and Culture at the ministry, Josephine Ohene-Osei.
Dr Awal said the country had two World Heritage Sites, namely the Forts and Castles in the Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western regions, and the Asante Traditional Buildings.
“We are meeting at a time when management of world heritage sites in Ghana has become challenging as a result of increased number of threats. These threats as identified in the Advisory and Reactive Monitoring Reports of 2019 and 2020, respectively, together with incidents at some components of the Forts and Castles World Heritage Sites require taking necessary steps to prevent loss of the outstanding universal value of the sites.
“Recently, with international assistance from UNESCO, an integrated management plan has been prepared for the Forts and Castles World Heritage Site,” he said.
The Director for the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, Ayeni Oisewemime, said the workshop was critical to get a lot of work done regarding site listing and management.
"When we build capacities, we can have a reasonable expectation for corresponding results," he said.
The Director of Culture at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Sierra Leone, Foday Jalloh, said a number of sites had been restored through collaboration with UNESCO and other partners to protect the cultural and natural heritage of Sierra Leone to preserve their value, authenticity and integrity.
He mentioned that measures were also being taken to train and involve the community to protect all national heritage assets.
Mr Jalloh said despite the achievements, there were some challenges that restricted "full implementation of the Articles of the 1972 Convention on Natural and Cultural Heritage".
He mentioned the challenges to include inadequate funding, lack of tools and equipment, scarce scientific and technological resources among the challenges.