The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is working to ensure that its World Heritage sites function as models of heritage conservation and sustainable human living. The organization employs an integrated and transdisciplinary approach to improve the living conditions of locals and alleviate poverty through the promotion of cultural heritage and sustainable tourism.
The organization aims to develop integrated management plans for UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves in Africa. UNESCO’s ongoing work in Ethiopia, in conjunction with other UN agencies, development programs, and national counterparts will serve as a model for future programs of the organization in the region. In Ethiopia, UNESCO’s work includes developing integrated management plans for sites such as Simien Mountains National Park, the Castles of Gondar, and Lake Tana.
To further its plans for integrated development, experts from the organization have visited the planned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Lake Tana – the source of the Blue Nile – as well as other UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Castles of Gondar and Simien Mountains National Park. The excursion included discussions on the establishment of a Green School in Bahir Dar, the importance of church forests for the in-situ conservation of indigenous Ethiopian tree species at Lake Tana, and environmentally friendly and culturally responsible tourism development at the heritage sites.
This pre-planning excursion exercise shared ideas on best practices for land use, reduction of soil erosion, reforestation, enhancement of biodiversity conservation, and climate change resilience among UN agencies, national development programs, and local Ethiopian counterparts. Additional support from governmental authorities, UN agencies, the private sector, the public, as well as the African Union, UNECA, and donors is necessary to achieve successful implementation of this vision.
The pre-planning excursion concluded that enhanced synergy and coordination among all stakeholders will be critical to strengthening the professional identification, establishment, management, and functioning of UNESCO Sites. The continental conference expected in November 2015 in Bahir Dar will ensure an exchange of best practices and encourage cooperation across countries and agencies to further develop integrated management plans of UNESCO Sites.
Image Credit: Flickr via mikecogh
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