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Haiti - UNESCO : The importance of culture as a motor for reconstruction
17/04/2011 13:11:19

Haiti - UNESCO : The importance of culture as a motor for reconstruction
Trinidad Jimenez, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, will preside this April 19, 2011 in Paris a conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to reinforce the cultural reconstruction projects in Haiti, has informed the UN agency. Jimenez, will chair the conference with Bokova, Director General Michaëlle Jean the Special Envoy of the Agency for Haiti.

At this conference that "will highlight the importance of culture as a motor for reconstruction in Haiti" are invited the Member States, institutions, multilateral development banks, private sector representatives and civil society organizations, declared the UNESCO in a statement.

Haiti is characterized by a rich and diversified heritage and a wealth of cultural expressions. This culture plays a central role in the lives of its people. We saw this the very day after the earthquake, when paintings and handicrafts were being sold in the devastated, debris-filled streets. Culture also plays an important role in the collective memory of the people. It is a fundamental element of the country's social cohesion; such as at the time of Carnival, a genuine moment of joy, music, dance, celebration, costumes and fantastic masks, reflecting the country's rich and colourful handicrafts. The cultural sector, notably crafts, literature and music, is central to the country's economic development, with artisans representing 10% of the active population, approximately 400,000 people. Haiti also has important cultural and natural heritage sites. The National History Park, Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers, which has been recognized as a World Heritage property (1982), is the first to have been built by black slaves who had regained their freedom; and the historic centre of Jacmel was placed on the Tentative List (2004), indicating the government's intent to propose the property for inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Therefore, the Haitian authorities have included an entire chapter on Culture in the "Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti" within the section on social reconstruction, thus considering this sector as a true priority in the country's recovery.

The "Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti" proposed by the Haitian government in March 2010 gives priority to Culture and is both a national strategy driven by political will and an appeal to international cooperation.

The main elements included in the recovery strategy in the area of culture are:

  • Establishing a system of cultural management that, on the one hand allows the State to exercise its functions of observation, monitoring and regulation; and on the other hand that allows everyone to have access to the means of production and to cultural goods.
  • Ensuring the development of cultural industries through developing financing mechanisms and an appropriate legal framework.
  • Ensuring the promotion of Haitian heritage and encouraging international cooperation through introducing cultural education programmes in schools.

When the earthquake hit Haiti on 12 January 2010, UNESCO acted immediately to provide assistance to the Haitian people and their government. UNESCO believes that culture is essential, not only because it contributes to economic development, but also because it gives meaning and value to identity and to the continuity of human societies. This is particularly important in a post-disaster context, such as the one that Haiti has been in since January 2010.

This is why UNESCO has advocated from the beginning for including culture, as a fundamental source of renewal and social cohesion, in reconstruction strategies. Indeed, in post-conflict or post-disaster situations, recognizing the heritage and creative components of cultural diversity is a positive force that supports dialogue, mutual understanding, reconciliation, social stability and reconstruction.

Challenges that must be addressed for the cultural sector in Haiti :

  • At the institutional level, improving the policy and legal frameworks and developing policy that encourages capacity building and interministerial cooperation, notably for the implementation of the conventions.
  • At the local level, the sector primarily managed by civil society and the private sector, needs better coordination with public institutions.
  • Culture is truly "of the people": it manifests itself, among other things, through art, music, painting; and the access to museums, libraries and other cultural institutions should be encouraged.

This is why UNESCO has given priority to structural actions in order to organise the cultural sector and to maximize its contribution to national development. UNESCO has already funded a series of actions that strengthen governance and the contribution to institutional development, which are closely linked to the country's economic and social revival.

At the same time, the Organisation has given its support to cultural initiatives able to bring joy and comfort to suffering populations, such as the theatre project by the Haitian company Zhovie in the camps for displaced people. UNESCO has also provided educational and artistic activities for children, notably through the DREAM Centre (Dance, Read, Art, Express and Music) in Pétionville. The Centre provides children with opportunities to learn new skills and express inspiration and creativity, which are the best tools to help them imagine their futures.

In order to enhance international coordination in the field of culture, UNESCO's Executive Board established the International Coordination Committee (ICC) for the Safeguarding of Haitian Cultural Heritage in April 2010, in line with the Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti.

The ICC is comprised of 10 independent experts, including 3 Haitian members. Its mission is to coordinate the ensemble of interventions in the area of culture in Haiti and to mobilize the necessary resources. It has thereby developed a "roadmap" that advises, inter alia, updating the law on the protection of national heritage; beginning the inventory of the built heritage in Port-au-Prince; making an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage present in Haiti and identifying the most endangered intangible cultural expressions; organizing the protection and conservation of archives, books and other movable cultural property; collecting data and elaborating methodological tools in the sector of cultural industries.

UNESCO will continue advocating for the importance of culture as a motor of reconstruction in Haiti and will present the projects submitted for funding. The proposed interventions focus on all areas of UNESCO's expertise (Built Heritage, Intangible Heritage, movable heritage (museums, archives and libraries), Cultural Industries, and Cultural Policies), grouped around five pillars:

  • Policy development and related institutional capacity building
  • Rebuilding the culture sector in Port-au-Prince and contributing to the return of the displaced communities to their neighbourhoods
  • Safeguarding the cultural heritage of Jacmel and fostering creativity for its economic and social revival
  • Developing the area of Léogâne into a pilot model for the safeguarding of Haiti's valuable intangible cultural heritage
  • Protecting the National History Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers, World Heritage property and enabling socio-economic development for the local communities

The common denominator of these areas is the adoption of better economic governance and the institutional development necessary to restart Haiti's economy and society and to improve Haitians' living conditions.

Substantial improvement in financial management, better linkages and coordination of external funding coupled with a greater effectiveness of the actors involved, will have a lasting impact on the level of the country's human development and will reinforce the legitimacy of the State in the public domain. Moreover, true efforts of local development and active participation will contribute to strengthening Haitians' confidence.

List of proposed projects:


Project 1 : Building strong institutions

Module 1: Towards a revised cultural policy framework for Haiti
To prepare an evidence-based framework for cultural policies covering all fields of culture that takes into account the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders (academics, professionals, artists, designers, students, etc.).

Module 2: Strengthening institutional capacities
To strengthen institutional capacities for the implementation of international conventions ratified by Haiti, in particular the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

Module 3: Revising the built heritage policies
To support the Haitian institutions with a modern legal framework and legislative texts for the protection and development of built cultural heritage in Haiti, in full coherence with UNESCO Conventions.

Module 4: Elaboration of a national plan for the museum sector
To support the Haitian Ministry of Culture and Communication in its efforts to protect, conserve and document its movable cultural property and to fight against illicit trafficking through the development of a national plan for museums, and the establishment of legal and protective measures for the sector.

Project 2: Port-au-Prince: Towards an integrated approach to culture

Module 1: Retour aux Quartiers
To provide the Institute for the Preservation of the National Heritage (ISPAN) with the tools to ensure the long-term safeguarding and reconstruction of the heritage of Port-au-Prince, and to strengthen its capacity for coordinating the rehabilitation efforts. To assimilate international reflections on the way to revive the capital, through the use and role of cultural heritage, in light of the unprecedented scale of the destruction. To develop a pilot project for an integrated cultural approach to the rehabilitation of local neighbourhoods, enabling a sustainable return for the displaced population.

Module 2: Collecting the memory of Haiti in its archives
To ensure the long-term preservation and safeguarding of Haiti’s archival and documentary heritage and to improve access to the memory of the country.

Module 3: Rebuilding the library sector
To strengthen the library sector in Haiti by providing technical support for the creation and re-establishment of libraries and centres for reading throughout the country and making it better protected against disasters.

Module 4: Recovery of movable collections
To protect, conserve and document Haiti’s movable cultural property and to fight against the illicit trafficking of collections.

Module 5: Rehabilitation plans for museums and cultural institutions
To protect, conserve and document Haiti’s movable cultural property and to fight against the illicit trafficking of collections.

Project 3: Jacmel: Restoring memory, encouraging creativity

Module 1: Revitalizing the historic centre of Jacmel
To enhance the safeguarding of the heritage of the historic centre of Jacmel through the stabilization of the most damaged heritage structures and emergency interventions to strengthen the capacities of local and national technicians.

Module 2: Rebuilding confidence: Crafts for Development
To contribute to poverty alleviation and promote income generation and employment through developing craft enterprises in favour of disadvantaged social groups.

Module 3: Fostering creativity through arts
To offer the youth of the Jacmel area opportunities to develop their artistic talents and to participate in cultural life. To provide the town of Jacmel with a modern and well-structured school of art and culture that will contribute to the tourism potential of the area and serve as a model for other regions in Haiti.

Project 4: Léogâne: Safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of Haiti

Module 1: Inventory of Intangible Heritage in Léogâne
To support the implementation of the 2003 Convention through drawing up inventories and identifying the endangered intangible cultural heritage susceptible to be proposed for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. To provide the necessary visibility to Léogâne’s cultural values and traditional expressions.

Module 2: Safeguarding the Rara tradition
To revitalize, through educational, transmission and promotional activities, the uninterrupted practice of this unique cultural expression of the Rara music tradition, as well as to simultaneously support the tradition-bearers’ communities. Such urgent activities will help maintain Rara as an integral part of Haitian culture and a vivid manifestation of Haitian people’s cultural identity.

Project 5: National History Park - Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers: Protecting Haiti's World Heritage

Module 1: Heritage preservation and integrated socio-economic development for the World Heritage property
To ensure the structural consolidation of the World Heritage property; formulate the necessary protocols to undertake interventions on the fortified heritage and to develop plans associated with conservation, management and risk preparedness. To foster the socio-economic development of the surrounding communities, while respecting the long-term preservation of the World Heritage property.

HL/ HaitiLibre

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