Blue Shield in Africa Publication Launch

Protecting Heritage in Crisis: Blue Shield in Africa brings into focus the many challenges facing the protection of cultural property (CPP) across the African continent as a result of conflict or disaster, whether it be war, climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, urban sprawl, neglect or other risks; and highlights the important work of African Blue Shield National Committees to mitigate against threats to both tangible and intangible cultural property (CP).

By outlining some of the risks, issues and challenges faced by heritage in Africa, by advocating for capacity building across the heritage sector and beyond, and by urging prevention as a better route to follow than cure in terms of CPP, the National Committees (NCs) in Senegal, Cameroon, and Mali, and the National Committees under Construction in Mozambique and Niger, have been the driving force behind the publication.

Of the five NCs, Senegal is the ‘grand old man’, having been accredited to the Blue Shield Movement since 2008. Blue Shield Senegal is also currently a member of the Governing Board of the Blue Shield. Cameroon became fully accredited as a National Committee in 2016 and Mali joined last year. Niger and Mozambique Blue Shields are still ‘in formation’ although both are already active on several heritage-related fronts, and Niger’s accreditation is imminent. Together, these five African Blue Shields put forward a strong case in ‘Protecting Heritage in Crisis’ on the importance that cultural heritage plays for the identity and wellbeing of local communities, and emphasise the role of authorities, academics, NGOs, the military and civil society at large in bringing this about.

Île de Saint-Louis Île du Nord, Rue Khalifa Ababacar Sy, Island of St Louis World Heritage site, Senegal (c) BS Senegal

“The active synergy between the managers of cultural heritage, local communities, regional authorities, the State and partners is necessary for a better conservation of African cultural heritage”

say Mamadou Samaké of Blue Shield Mali and Babacar Ndiaye of Blue Shield Senegal in their Introduction.

Damage to chapel of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte caused by the intense tropical cyclone Kenneth in 2019. (c) Photographic Archive of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Mozambique.

The history and work of the five African NCs are explained in detail in the publication, and the strong collaboration between them and their partners in the wider Blue Shield family is highlighted. The global Blue Shield Approach to CPP, as adopted by its Board in February 2021, is included at the end of the text and further helps to clarify the relationship between the Blue Shield International Secretariat and the country-level NCs.

In her contribution to the publication, Susann Harder, Chair of Blue Shield Germany, which facilitated and supported the production of Protecting Heritage in Crisis, with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, reiterates her National Committee’s hope of continuing to:

“strengthen the presence of Blue Shield experts in Africa, but also to continue learning about the valuable experience we each possess about protecting cultural heritage, especially because this experience is often gained at great cost”.

Several projects and activities are already being planned through this collaboration for 2022, including a regional meeting in Africa, the strengthening of heritage and related networks, capacity building and skills enhancement within NCs and the wider heritage sector; exhibitions, and CPP-related advocacy. The focus will not only be on the centre, but also on sub-regional and regional institutions which, as stated in the publication,

“’can also play a determining role in the implementation of a prevention mechanism against looting, illegal trafficking and destruction of cultural property, and in the inclusion of cultural concerns in sustainable development programmes for a better valorisation of African cultural heritage’”.

Supporting the creation of inventories and the documenting of heritage at risk in Africa will be other priorities for the months to come.

Download Blue Shield in Africa (pdf) – the publication is dual language in French and English.

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