Marine cultural heritage (MCH) represents all tangible and intangible traces of human interaction with the marine environment. This includes the remains of sunken urban structures, shipwrecks, coastal archaeological sites but also traditions, knowledge systems, and a variety of cultural expressions that define the identity of local communities in their use of the marine environment of history. Manifestations that are protected by a series of international legal frameworks like the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage or, among others, the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World´s Natural and Cultural Heritage. The Rising from the Depths Network (RftD) aims to harness the potential of MCH for the sustainable development of East African communities. Throughout its 27 projects, RftD has been able to identify ways in which the MCH contributes to the improvement of coastal communities’ livelihoods and has identified gaps and strengths in management approaches and policy development. Areas, where the projects have worked, include some of the most iconic World Heritage sites in East Africa like Lamu Old Town in Kenya, Zanzibar’s Stonetown, and Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania, or Mozambique Island in Mozambique.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention underlines the duty of each State Party to ensure “the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory” (Article 4). Each State Party needs to ensure “that effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory” (Article 5), and this includes –although it is not stated it is indeed assumed – the maritime areas and internal waters that are under its jurisdiction. MCH is part of that cultural heritage that needs to be effectively identified, protected, conserved, presented, and transmitted to future generations.
UNESCO and the Rising from the Depths Network organize this thematic workshop to explore the challenges, values, and significance of MCH within World Heritage sites in East Africa with the aim of improving management practice and drawing policy recommendations.
The increase in coastal and marine infrastructure development in East Africa, together with an increase in the people living along the coast, and the development of important tourism strategies connected to each countries’ development agendas is placing enormous pressure on communities and their environment, affecting their cultural identities, expressions and heritage. In most of East Africa, the extension of MCH is not yet known. This is due to the lack of appropriate capacities, protocols, or management approaches that could carry out a systematic, inclusive and participatory inventory of the region´s heritage. The inability to register, understand, and study the potential of MCH can be seen in its very absence from the different nominations of East African coastal sites to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
This Workshop aims to create awareness of the MCH linked to World Heritage sites, and the threats it is facing. It should also investigate the synergies between different international charters like the UNESCO 2001 and World Heritage Convention. It will present the results from RftD projects in relation to World Heritage sites, and it will underline the importance of community-based integrated management approaches to natural and cultural heritage. The workshop also intends to:
- Highlight the importance of people-centred practices for both the conservation of natural and cultural heritage sites, and the resilience of local communities.
- Raise awareness among policy-makers, heritage practitioners, World Heritage site managers and local communities of the potential of MCH in the design and implementation of management plans and strategies.
- Strengthen dialogue and exchange between experts in the region, consolidating a Network of MCH specialists.
- Identify scientific and management gaps in MCH and World Heritage preservation and conclude with a series of recommendations and needed actions to inform the elaboration of policy briefs that could guide UNESCO Member States in the Region.