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UNESCO prepares for Haiti's rebirth through culture

Great need for capacity building

Published on 8 July 2010

Author(s): Afrique en ligne

Type:  News

"We intend to multiply and diversify cultural projects in the most creative way possible," said UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova

Building institutional capacity, drawing up inventories and developing plans for safeguarding Haitian cultural heritage are some of the priority actions identified by the International Coordination Committee for the protection of Haitian cultural heritage (ICC) at its first meeting on 7 and 8 July in Paris, France. "We intend to multiply and diversify cultural projects in the most creative way possible," said UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova at the opening of the meeting, underlining the "healing power of culture, which is more and more recognized by the international community as an essential component of reconstruction."

The Director-General also announced the founding of an international donors' committee to implement ICC's recommendations in four areas -- world heritage (cultural and natural), intangible heritage, movable heritage (museums, archives and libraries) and cultural industries. The new donors' committee will meet in early 2011 to examine the first project proposals.

The ICC, established by UNESCO last February and headed by Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassègue, the Haitian Minister of Culture and Communication, is composed of 10 Haitian and international experts, whose mission is to mobilize resources and coordinate all actions related to culture in Haiti. It has drawn up a "roadmap" identifying urgent and mid-term measures to be taken.

For example, concerning cultural and natural heritage, the ICC recommended involving Haitian technicians to draw up inventories urgently for the city of Jacmel, which is a candidate for inscription on the World Heritage List and for Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. The committee also suggested that UNESCO set up an observatory on the vitality of intangible heritage and identify expressions most threatened by extinction, notably in areas hardest hit by the earthquake.

It further recommended safeguarding archives, books and other movable cultural assets and training local curators and restorers.Finally, the CIC called for gathering data and developing methodological tools related to cultural industries.Crafts were a main focus as a source of creation and a factor of economic, social and cultural development.

To date, UNESCO has collected US$ 2.9 million in emergency aid for Haitian education, US$ 400,000 for the media and US$ 750,000 to renovate Haitian coastal alert systems."Regarding culture, however, we have only just recently received the first donation," said Ms. Bokova. It was a donation from a Buddhist institution in North Korea to support theatre presentations in camps for displaced people in Port-au-Prince.

Bokova also noted the organization's investment of US$ 450,000 from its regular budget in cultural projects in Haiti, including the particularly symbolic safe guarding of the National History Park. Haiti's World Heritage site, including the Citadel, the Palace of Sans Souci and the building at Ramiers, dates back to the early 19th century, when the first black republic proclaimed its independence.

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