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date: 08 December 2021

World Heritage, Sustainable Development, and Africalocked

World Heritage, Sustainable Development, and Africalocked

  • Pascall TaruvingaPascall TaruvingaRobben Island Museum


World Heritage and Sustainable Development are connecting, complex, and inseparable global concepts operating at the local levels of World Heritage sites in developing nations. World Heritage is defined as cultural and natural sites considered to have outstanding universal values (OUV) and are legally protected by international treaties, in this case the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which provide the criteria for inscribing such sites and for keeping them on the World Heritage List. World Heritage promotes conservation of such heritage for the benefit of humanity. Sustainable Development, however, refers to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, and its implementation is largely directed by guidelines and principles endorsed by a broad range of stakeholders. Both concepts, World Heritage and Sustainable Development, have present and futuristic functionalities, but the former appears to be more emphasized than the latter in their application to heritage management. The present and futuristic functionalities of these two concepts constitute a complex but continuously evolving relationship that remains topical in the 21st century and beyond. As such, and in order to deepen our understanding the relationship between World Heritage and Sustainable Development, empirical analysis of their respective implementation at the local levels is a continuous process. Advancing the localization of World Heritage and Sustainable Development, including reducing theory into practice for the benefit of both conservation and the well-being of society, remains a mutually beneficiary process for both concepts. While conservation is premised on maintaining and retaining the significance of a heritage site, the well-being of society is driven by efforts toward meeting society’s diverse and growing needs on a daily basis.

The balancing of World Heritage, Sustainable Development, conservation, and the well-being of society remains a contested but unavoidable engagement. All these aspects are still yet to find full acceptance and a localization matrix in the geo-socioeconomic and cultural contexts of Africa. Conservation and socioeconomic development for the well-being of society are viewed as issues that are as old as humanity itself. Both are embedded in the traditional management systems that guided protection of heritage and utilization of both renewable and nonrenewable resources available to communities in Africa. Therefore, these issues are a local phenomenon before becoming issues of global concern. While solutions from outside the context of these local phenomena may assist and bring good practices for World Heritage and Sustainable Development, they cannot be effective without being infused with local input and adaptation of local experiences to improve policy implementation. Understandably, the well-being of society has always been in existence and remains a priority; however, what is changing is the scale, diversity, and urgency of the needs of society due to multiple factors. Continuous research is required to find a balance between global processes and the local needs of society at World Heritage sites in Africa. The future of World Heritage in Africa lies in its adaptive ability to embrace continuously emerging local dynamics of sustainable development, offering alternative and creative solutions, embracing an inclusive stakeholder governance approach, and quantifying the contribution of heritage to development targets. World Heritage has to be part of a broader localized solution to local socioeconomic challenges in Africa.


  • Archaeology

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