By Leocadia Bongben
Cameroon, its capital Yaoundé, the city of seven hills and Mvomeka’a in the South region are busy with sub regional activities to mark 50 years of the World Heritage Convention.
To mark this milestone, 40 young African World Heritage professionals from 30 African countries are sharing ideas to shape the future of the world heritage under the theme : “African Youth in the Next 50 Years: The Heritage We Want.”
And there was no better place for these young people to meet than Mvomeka’a, near the Dja Wildlife Reserve. The Dja Wildlife Reserve has been a World Heritage site since 1987.
There is also a photographic exhibition of the World Heritage sites, a meeting of the sub-regional world heritage experts and a high level ministerial meeting on world heritage in Central Africa.
Since 2016, more than 175 young people from 47 African countries have been trained and mobilized to promote and preserve the World Heritage in Africa.
This 6th forum is special with the celebration in 2022 of the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.
The rationale behind the adoption of the convention was hinged on the fact that cultural and natural heritage are threatened with destruction. That losing any item of the cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world. Given that protection at national level remains incomplete due to scarce resources, UNESCO’s general conference vouched for the conservation and protection of the world’s heritage.
To UNESCO, “The celebration is therefore timely as the sub-region is facing several imbalances in the implementation of the convention: the impacts of armed conflict are tangibly felt by the sites and the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of the heritage ecosystem to a sudden crisis, which was evident through the closure of several World Heritage sites. Other challenges are prevalent: climate change, natural and man-made disasters, population growth, rapid urbanization, and the destruction of heritage.”
Key Facts about the World Heritage Convention
The World Heritage Convention is an initiative of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO general conference of November 1972.
Titled Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the convention has 38 Articles. Articles 1 and 2 define cultural and natural heritage.
Cultural heritage refers to monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.
Natural Heritage consists of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view; geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation; natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation of natural beauty.
The convention in article 4 stipulates that the state has the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage. Also, adapts general policies of cultural and natural heritage to function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes among others.
The convention provides for an Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Outstanding Universal Value, called “the World Heritage Committee”, that manages the World heritage activities.
Some of the major World Heritage sites in Central Africa
There are 13 natural and cultural heritage sites in the 10 countries of Central Africa, plus Angola, Burundi, Chad Sao Tome and Principe .
These include the Ivindo National Park in Gabon in 2021. The Gamba-Mayumba-Conkouati Landscape (Congo, Gabon), the Dja-Odzala-Minkébé Tri-national).