44th World Heritage Committee Session Urged To Decide In Favour Of Countries That Experienced Colonial Rule And Oppression.

By Phumzile Mavimbela

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, participated in the 44th World Heritage Session where he re-affirmed the need for heritage sites to be representative of African interest, in particular, nations that have been on the receiving end of atrocities, under colonial rule. The inscription of such sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List will be educational, with a view to change the global narrative about the meaning and significance of such sites.
The Minister’s intervention was made on behalf of South Africa and was supported by African countries partaking in the World Heritage Committee Meeting that takes place from 16th July 2021 to 30th July 2021. This session is organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in cooperation with the host country, the People’s Republic of China.
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale is a case in point relevant to Minister Mthethwa’s intervention. This occasion represents for South Africa, Namibia and Angola, one of the key turning points in the liberation struggle. Whilst this is so, western countries and the apartheid South African Government of that time did not accept that they were defeated during this battle. There are many other such examples that require us to reflect and re-educate ourselves and the world.
With this concern about representivity, inclusivity and fairness placed on the agenda of the World Heritage Committee, it is expected that dialogue on this subject will be amplified at the next gathering set to take place in Russia in 2022. This is so, particularly for South Africa, where reconciliation is accepted as a bedrock to moving the nation forward. Therefore, when we tell the story of our painful past with colonisation and oppression, it is incumbent that we do so in a manner that educates and brings people of the world together, as opposed to creating division.
Minister Nathi Mthethwa further explains, “One of the philosophical foundations of South Africa’s new democracy and the new nation that we are building is reconciliation - a value and principle which underpins the shared purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention and its operational guidelines. One that also supports the constitution and purpose of UNESCO and therefore, our frame of intervention on the sites of memory of recent conflict.”
The World Heritage Committee is the governing body on world heritage and meets every year. The committee consists of representatives from 21 of the states parties to the convention, elected by their General Assembly.  South Africa is one of the 21 states parties as well as four other states parties on the continent (Ethiopia, Mali, Uganda and Nigeria).

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44th World Heritage Committee Session

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa


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