The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism has finally forwarded the long overdue UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) seven conventions for the protection of cultural heritage to President George Weah for review and onward submission to the House of Representatives and the Senate for ratification.
Although Liberia is one of the oldest members of UNESCO and a signatory to these conventions, the country has not been able to domesticate it through ratification.
Deputy Cultural and Tourism Minister Lance Gbagonyon, who is leading frantic efforts to have the conventions ratified, says the ratification will unlock funds from UNESCO that will help Liberia preserve some of its damaging cultural heritage and position the country to retrieve lost artifacts.
“The ratification of the conventions, which is long overdue, will ensure the safeguarding of the country’s cultural heritage at the international and national levels, with a view to its continuity, transmission, development and scientific value,” said Deputy Minister Gbagonyon. “Also, when ratified, the country stands to benefit a lot from technical training to enhance staff and the ministry’s knowledge about cultural heritage, allowing us to access funds for projects and programs under the conventions.
“The ratification could also provide protection in times of peace and armed conflict, serving as a guiding form of tourism which respects the country’s intangible cultural heritage as a source of identity and social cohesion, as well as encouraging respect for and appreciation of cultural diversity,” Min. Gbagonyon noted.
The conventions include the convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, the convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, with registration for the execution of the convention, as well as the convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property.
The others are the convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage, convention for the protection of phonograms against unauthorized duplication and the UNIDROIT convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.
The minister also added that the ratification will strengthen and protect Liberia’s underwater cultural heritage and historical archipelagic for the benefit of humanity.
Min. Gbagonyon explained that one key aspect from which Liberia stands to benefit has to do with improvement in its works on monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structure, preservation of natural heritage, while keeping an inventory of property forming part of the country’s cultural and natural heritage.
“The instrument ensures respect for intangible cultural heritage of, communities, groups, and Liberians and safeguards intangible cultural heritage present in Liberia’s territory
“It consolidates the supervision of archeological excavations, ensuring the preservation of certain cultural property, and protects certain areas that are reserved for future research. It forestalls the illegal export and import, ownership and transfer of cultural properties,” he said.
Meanwhile, Min. Gbagonyon has assured the public his department’s commitment to ensuring that these cultural instruments are ratified in order to safeguard and protect Liberia’s cultural heritage.
Min. Gbagonyon last week revealed a plan that will make the tourism sector in the country become a million-dollar industry in the next six years.
The strategic tourism development plan sets a target of 15 million international visitors to the country by 2023, with a projected direct economic impact of between US$20 to US$40 million.