A five-day workshop was organised by the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board from 19th-23rd January, 2021 at the Ange Hill Hotel, Accra. Welcoming participants to the workshop, the Executive Director for the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, Mr Agyeman-Duah said the workshop was funded by UNESCO through international assistance under the World Heritage Fund; and is to help develop a Management and Conservation plan for managing the forts and castles in Ghana. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the National Technical Committee (NATCOM) supported with preparations and will help with the implementation of the Management and Conservation Plan for the Heritage sites when they are completed.
At the opening ceremony held on Tuesday 19th January, 2021 and which was attended by people with diverse backgrounds, the Representative of UNESCO to Ghana, Mr. Abdourahmane Diallo, expressed his delight that after many months of preparation, the workshop had finally taken place and would help to build the capacities of Ghanaian officials in preparing a Management and Conservation Plan for two of Ghana’s Heritage sites. This according to him, forms part of efforts to implement the 1972 Convention which states that “States Parties are encouraged to integrate the protection of the cultural and natural heritage into regional planning programmes, set up staff and services at their sites, undertake scientific and technical conservation research and adopt measures which give this heritage a function in the day-to-day life of the community. It explains how the World Heritage Fund is to be used and managed and under what conditions international financial assistance may be provided”.
The Representative of the Secretary General of UNESCO, commended Ghana for her efforts and also for a relatively peaceful elections; and hoped that culture would help play a role in ensuring that there is understanding between the different cultures and people, dialogue instead of violence and building bridges of peace in the minds of the people.
He was hopeful that government would make culture a priority for national development as embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), having been aware of its transverse nature and the role it can play to have impact on our lives. He linked this to the SDGs as having a human centred approach to development and therefore encourages its integration into the global, regional and national development plans.
He traced the Convention to 1972, when it was adopted as a result of concerns raised about the threats of destruction facing the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage. This brought about the need to protect them and mobilize the needed support from the international community.
According to Mr. Diallo, Ghana is a beneficiary of this Convention and believes and agrees with the World the Outstanding Universal Value of Forts and Castles and the Asante Traditional Buildings, the reasons for which they were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Since then, UNESCO has supported to constitute the Ghana Heritage Committee and advised accordingly on related matters relating to the framework of the Convention. He said though on the ground some gains have been made, there are however challenges that Ghana must face and overcome in order to effectively implement and benefit optimally from the Convention. These include the institutional hurdles and the policy challenges that the GMMB needs to overcome to enable her operate better, and efficiently and effectively. Also adding to this, is the COVID-19 pandemic which has created additional problems.
He made reference to the 2020 Reactive Monitoring Report which is out with a number of recommendations for Ghana to implement and so the workshop had come at a good time and will enable the issues to be discussed.
In conclusion, Mr Diallo, said Ghana has a lot to share with the rest of the world in terms of its heritage list and therefore efforts should be made to prepare dossiers for new nominations for inscription on to the World Heritage list. He encouraged the GMMB to work towards submitting proposals for the creation of a Management and Conservation Plan for the Asante Traditional Buildings and also request for support to update its Tentative List which was last updated in 2000.
He pledged UNESCO’s support to help Ghana protect its heritage along the lines of its values.
Representing the Chief Director of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, was Mrs. Mabel Cudjoe, Director in charge of Research, Statistics and Information Management at the Ministry.
Speaking on behalf of the Chief Director, Mr John Yao Agbeko, Mrs. Cudjoe said it was the pleasure for the Ministry to be part of the capacity building geared towards the development of a Management Plan for the Forts and Castles World Heritage Site.
She expressed the Chief Director’s appreciation to UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre for granting Ghana the assistance through the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board for the development of a Conservation and Management Plan for the Forts and Castles. She also expressed gratitude for supporting the Heritage Committee and thanked all present for making time to be part of the workshop.
She mentioned that Ghana was one of the first countries to sign the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention which was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 which is now almost universally ratified by 191 states.
As a signatory to the Convention, Ghana is to ensure that development initiatives observe the rules of the Convention, which is the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). She reiterated the point that Ghana received two Missions – The advisory and the Reactive Monitoring Missions and both reports have shown that there is more to be done in order to maintain OUV of the forts and castles.
According to her, the workshop will support the development of priority programmes that would ensure that the appropriate interventions are carried out. Through the workshop, the existing legislative framework will be reviewed to enhance the existence of these heritage resources, which ultimately would help improve the socio-economic development and the quality of life of the local inhabitants in the areas where these resources are sited.
She brought to the fore, the link between tourism and culture, and said this has the ability to contribute to inclusive growth, if the right policies are put in place. Again, it also enhances the profile of destinations such as Ghana’s forts and castles being inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Concluding, she said Ghana would support in pushing forward UNESCO’s ideals by helping build a balance between conservation and development pursuits as well as create opportunities that will benefit the local communities living in or near to these sites. Mrs. Cudjoe said the Ministry was convinced that there is the need to have mutual beneficial solutions for conservation and development challenges and these can be identified when all stakeholders are willing to cooperate and respect the World Heritage Values.
There were goodwill messages from Ms Ama Serwah Nerquaye Tetteh, the Secretary General of the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and Prof. Kodzo Gavua, Chairman of the Ghana Heritage Committee and also the National Expert for the Development of the National Management Plan. They reiterated earlier statements made and acknowledged the enormous work that GMMB has to do in order for Ghana’s forts and castles not to be de-listed from the World Heritage List.
Ghana Museums and Monuments Board
The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. It is the legal custodian of Ghana’s material and cultural heritage (movable and immovable heritage). The Board was established in March 1957, on the eve of Ghana’s independence, with the passage of the Museum and Monuments Board Ordinance (Gold Coast No. 20 of 1957), replacing the Interim Council of the National Museum of the Gold Coast.
Their functions include establishing a national register and keeping inventory of all material culture, equipping and managing museums, identifying and recommending for declaration as national monuments, undertaking research and publishing information relating to material culture among others.