UN-backed fund launched to help Africa preserve cultural and natural heritage

5 May 2006 – A United Nations-backed fund to help the States of sub-Saharan Africa improve the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage was launched today in South Africa, which donated $3.5 million to help the project, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said.

The African World Heritage Fund will also be used to help boost the number of African sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List, because sub-Saharan Africa is “severely under-represented” on the current list despite great cultural and natural diversity in the region, the Paris-based agency said.

Under the Fund, grants will be awarded to help African States Parties to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention prepare national inventories of their heritage sites and prepare nomination dossiers for inscription onto the World Heritage List. Currently 40 sub-Saharan African States have ratified the World Heritage Convention although only 24 have sites on the World Heritage List.

Conservation and management of heritage properties in general, including those already inscribed on the World Heritage List, will also be eligible for funding. This will also be the case with rehabilitation assistance for properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Along with South Africa’s donation, India and Israel have also pledged contributions and UNESCO said that the private sector is also being encouraged to contribute and is expected to become a key partner in the future.

The Fund will be run by a Board of Trustees – all experts in heritage preservation – including two for each of the African Union's five regions and three additional members with permanent observer status. UNESCO and the African Union will have one observer each on the Board.

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