Fourth Arab Forum for Cultural Heritage proposes new initiatives - GulfToday

Fourth Arab Forum for Cultural Heritage proposes new initiatives

omari mosque 2

The Great Omari Mosque of Gaza, Palestine. The digitisation of its manuscript collection won the ICCROM-Sharjah Grand Prize in 2020.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah, the 4th Arab Forum for Cultural Heritage concluded its activities in Sharjah.

The forum (May 29 – June 1), organised by the Regional Office for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ICCROM-Sharjah), in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the Sharjah Institute for Heritage, was held at ICCROM-Sharjah under the title ‘Culture of Built Environment (Omran) and Resilience of Heritage’.

The meet focused on five main themes: the notion of built environments (Omran); the importance of the culture of built heritage in enhancing community role in sustaining cultural heritage; cultural preparedness as a tool for the resilience of heritage; community-based adaptation and culture-based resilience; and integrating socio-cultural dimensions into cultural heritage policies to achieve cohesion, inclusiveness and equality while sustaining and preserving historic environments. 


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Dr Webber Ndoro, Director of ICCROM, said at the conclusion of the third day of the forum that one of the important and exciting things he witnessed was the exchange of ideas and experience through presentations and discussion sessions. He stressed the importance of evaluating projects to ensure that they are done properly and accurately. He also gave the call to follow up on projects in a systematic and continuous way. “We cannot predict the future, but we can enable it,” he said.

omari mosque 2 Dr Zaki Aslan, Director, ICCROM-Sharjah (left), being honoured.

On the first day, the sessions focused on the first and second themes, while on the second day, presentations and discussions focused on the third and fourth themes. On the third day, discussions focused on the fifth and final theme. On the fourth and final day, the forum concluded with a session dedicated to presenting and discussing recommendations suggested by participants.

Members agreed that the recommendations should be included in a platform to be established. The recommendations and suggestions directed to governments and member states include those relating to the establishment of a robust local and national coordination mechanism for disaster resilience; preparing risk assessment based on holistic, participatory processes and to use them as a basis for planning and development of the historic built environment to achieve long-term goals; carrying out risk-informed territorial planning and development and developing tools based on risk assessments for vulnerable populations; building institutional capacities related to the resilience of built heritage; developing strategies for post-disaster recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction and ensuring they are aligned with long-term planning, to provide an improved built environment and increased resilience for the affected living community; plus many others.

Other suggestions include the establishment of an inventory and baseline of the current level of disaster resilience concerning cultural heritage (crisis mapping of the built environment in the Arab region); identifying funding opportunities for cultural heritage preservation; creating or promoting knowledge-sharing activities between cities and involving the private sector in planning and implementation; creating opportunities for building professional capacities among decision-makers and civil society while emphasising continuing education; enabling dialogue and consensus among parties responsible for cultural heritage protection, disaster risk reduction and related areas; engaging communities (particularly minorities and vulnerable population groups) in the decision-making process related to cultural heritage protection and disaster resilience; plus others.

Dr Zaki Aslan 1 Dr Webber Ndoro speaks at the forum.

Dr Zaki Aslan, Director of ICCROM-Sharjah, concluded the forum by emphasising the importance of the recommendations and the need to discuss, follow up and implement them further in coordination with local, regional, and international partners. He stressed the importance of the culture of the built environment (Omran) in preserving cultural heritage and enhancing its resilience to face the challenges of the current period.

“This forum is considered a significant opportunity to engage a wide range of regional and international experts and experiences,” he said. “At this stage, we must take advantage of this opportunity and continue meetings and discussions to reach the final results that would unify our efforts to address the challenges facing the cultural heritage in the Arab region.”

At the end of the forum, Dr John Robbins, Chairperson of the Council of ICCROM and Dr Webber Ndoro, honoured Dr Aslan, in recognition of the efforts he made over the course of 20 years in the service of cultural heritage in the region. In turn, Dr Aslan expressed his gratitude for the honour and thanked the Chairperson and Director of ICCROM as well as colleagues working at the institution, who he said contributed to achieving the success. “In the journey of life learning, this job taught me that you can be kind but should also be strong, empathetic and determined. One should be optimistic but also be pragmatic,” he said.

On the sidelines of the forum, the 4th cycle of the ICCROM-Sharjah Award for Good Practices in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management in the Arab Region (2023-2024), and the 3rd cycle of the Arab Cultural Heritage Award for the Young, were announced. Participants are invited to submit their projects starting from June 30, 2023. The winning projects will be announced in the fall of 2024. ICCROM-Sharjah is a regional conservation centre founded by ICCROM and the Government of Sharjah. It has been based in Sharjah since its inception in 2012. It is a continuation of ICCROM’s ATHAR programme, launched in 2004, dedicated to protecting cultural heritage in the Arab region.


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