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Case study: Carthage in Tunisia

The key historical milestones that led to the protection and the promotion of Carthage as one of the main archaeological sites in Tunisia.

Watch this video to understand the key historical milestones that led to the protection and the promotion of Carthage as one of the main archaeological sites in Tunisia.

The case of Carthage reflects the complexity of the urban governance of cultural heritage.

  1. Different scales of governance are intertwined. At the local scale, the municipality is a key actor, despite the few powers that municipalities have in the centralised Tunisian administrative system. Key strategic decisions are taken at the national scale, involving not only the ministry of culture, but also ministries of planning, transport, or tourism. The presidency also gets directly involved because of the presence of the Presidential Palace. Regarding the management of the site, responsibilities are shared among two national entities: the National Institute of Heritage, in charge of the archaeological works, and the Agency for Enhancement, Promotion of Cultural Heritage, in charge of the operation and the promotion of the site. On an international scale, UNESCO was central in defining a strategy for the site through numerous reports and missions. It still advocates strongly for actions to preserve and enhance the site.

  2. Private actors have been increasingly involved since the 1980s. This followed the limitations of the restrictive approach defined by the 1985 decree, which defined no-construction zones and led to the permanent vacancy of numerous lots. In the following two decades, the private sector became increasingly involved in the site. Two public-private partnerships were created. One operates the Acropolium, the former Cathedral located on top of Byrsa Hill. The firm that manages this building operates a different ticket policy from the rest of the site. Under the second, a private operator recently established a complex named the Phoenix of Carthage. The initial goal planned for this location was to set up an information point for the whole site. But the company in charge of the project eventually developed a venue for entertainment and weddings that does not benefit visitors of the site. A last example of intervention of the private sector is the selling of parcels of the site to a real-estate developer for high-standing villas. This example shows the risks that privatization can represent for the integrity of a cultural heritage site.

  3. The civil society also plays a major role in Carthage. The UNESCO campaign was launched thanks to the mobilization of the Association for the Safeguarding of the Medina in the 1960s. After the Tunisian revolution in 2011, the civil society mobilized to denounce the sale of parcels of the site to the relatives of the former president. Nearly 20 articles were published in the Tunisian press in the early 2011 to make the public aware of the situation in Carthage and more than 4000 people signed the petition entitled the “Call for the defence of the cultural site of Carthage Sidi Bou Saïd”. Two new non-profit organizations, the “Friends of Carthage” and the “Dwellers of Carthage”, were created to put forward their vision on the future of the site.

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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