The Potential Role of the World Heritage Convention, ICOMOS, and ICAHM in African Archaeological Site Preservation and Economic Development

  • Author: Michel R. Doortmont
  • Topic: Heritage studies
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural
Heritage, commonly known as the World Heritage Convention, - cite_note-2was adopted
by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972. It has since
been ratified by 186 countries (“states parties”), more than any other international

The Convention established a World Heritage Committee, composed of
representatives of 21 states parties, who are elected at a General Assembly
held every three years. The World Heritage Committee maintains the World
Heritage List of places possessing “outstanding universal significance.” In
2009, there were 890 World Heritage Sites, of which 689 are cultural, 176
are natural, and 25 are mixed properties.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) advises
the World Heritage Committee in regard to nominations of cultural sites to
the World Heritage List and it monitors these sites once listed. In turn, the
International Scientific Committee on Archeological Heritage Management
(ICAHM) advises ICOMOS on archaeological sites, which comprise most of
the cultural sites.

Designation as a World Heritage Site carries with it great prestige and
the potential for considerable economic benefit. Africa as a region has disproportionately
few world Heritage Sites. ICAHM is concerned with this
disparity because Africa contains many of the archaeological sites that are
tremendously important to human evolution and history. For that reason,
ICAHM would like to begin discussions about identifying sites that are very
likely to be eligible for inscription on the World Heritage List.

In this session, we will provide the pertinent history of the Convention,
ICOMOS, and ICAHM; discuss the nomination process and which nominations
are most likely to succeed; and outline management strategies that
ICAHM economic studies indicate as those most likely to preserve archaeological
sites while enhancing economic benefit to local communities and
states parties.

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