Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO,on the occasion of African World Heritage Day 5 May 2021
As the world enters a second year of this devastating pandemic, engaging with our cultural and natural heritage remains crucial for humanity. This engagement helps us to be more connected, more resilient, more able to protect the legacy of the past and hand it down to future generations. African World Heritage, which we celebrate every year on this day, is essential in this respect – not only for the people of Africa, but for all of humankind.
African World Heritage Day was established during the UNESCO General Conference in 2015 to increase public awareness of the immense value and potential of Africa’s heritage. Beyond just celebrating heritage, this day is helping to highlight its key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Indeed, this year’s theme, which highlights culture, arts and heritage in the continent’s development, is keeping with the African Union’s 2021 theme of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want. In particular, it underlines the role of African culture and heritage in furthering the development of Africa’s distinctive identity and economy.
However, if African heritage is to play this role, we must adopt more integrated, inclusive approaches to its protection. In the face of the challenges confronting African World Heritage today – from COVID-19 to climate change – we must better embrace young people, women and the indigenous and local communities living in and around World Heritage properties as their custodians and protectors.
In close collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund and other partners, UNESCO is providing support to countries, site managers, heritage professionals and local communities to encourage the conservation, management, and promotion of African heritage. We are working to raise awareness among young people, as agents of change. We are also working to apply new technologies to help in the safeguarding of World Heritage, as well as in the reconstruction, monitoring, surveillance and promotion of cultural and natural heritage sites.
Today is the perfect occasion to celebrate their commitment and perseverance to protect and promote African heritage, despite existing challenges and a future filled with uncertainty.
It is an opportunity to thank each and every stakeholder for the incredible work they do to ensure that we can all enjoy the cultural and natural wealth of the African continent.