What can citizens do to safeguard cultural heritage?
“The revolution of January 2011 resulted in the destruction, degradation and looting of vital components of Cairo’s historic heritage. In response to that state of affairs, which they regarded as attributable to weak institutional governance, civil society movements for the protection and management of cultural heritage have sprung up, relying on social networks. They claim that citizens have the right to play an active part in the protection of their heritage and living environment. The ‘Save Cairo’ initiative, designed to protect the city’s urban heritage, organizes sit-ins in front of buildings threatened with destruction, as well as campaigning publicly. While it has not always been successful in averting destruction, it has drawn attention to the issue of conserving urban heritage. Other kinds of action are being taken on a neighbourhood scale. The Heliopolis heritage initiative is documenting the architectural heritage of the twentieth century through photography competitions, guided tours and campaigns directed at the authorities. The Ana min Al-Zaher (‘I’m from Al Zaher’) initiative prompted the state to renovate and reopen an architectural treasure, the Al Sakakini Palace. The Athar Lina (‘the monument is ours’) initiative in Al-Khalifa Street is advocating for citizen participation in heritage protection, enabling the interests of local residents to be better ad- dressed. Participatory workshops involving both the local residents and the authorities were set up in 2012. The commitment has been followed up with the creation of a school of heritage and a number of restoration activities (medieval domes, twentieth-century buildings, etc.). The defence of the citizens’ interests has since broadened to include the regeneration of public areas and improvement in the management of household waste collection.”
UNESCO report on Culture and Sustainable Urban Development, p.98Do you think that in the city where you live, some heritage buildings could be under threat of demolition?Share your thoughts about what could be done to protect them“In 2008, George Town and Melaka were jointly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their rich trading heritage. In George Town, the capital and largest city of the state of Penang in Malaysia, the local community plays a significant role in the conservation and protection of cultural heritage and the promotion of urban development. Faced with large-scale development threats that risk impacting the heritage values of the site, the local community has been active in driving several conservation processes forward. In 2007, a large-scale community protest, consisting of numerous demonstrations, campaigns and government lobbying successfully halted the Penang Global City Centre Development (PGCC) project, which aimed to transform 260 acres of green space into tower blocks. Similarly, the establishment of the Penang Heritage Trust has paved the way for other bottom-up conservation processes, including the George Town Transformation Programme established in 2009, which have resulted in cultural mapping, capacity-building, conservation and the development of shared spaces to address the issues of the city’s ageing population, poor public amenities and lack of investment.”
Cultural Heritage and the City
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