The Daily Herald writes that an international effort by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture UNESCO hosted on St. Maarten in May called “Capacity Building Meetings on Heritage Conservation in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS),” resulted in the “Philipsburg Declaration and Action Plan,” which outlines the collective way forward in protecting heritage. The Declaration aims to strengthen professional capacities amongst the regional and international participant countries, in preparing nomination dossiers for sites to be put forward for the UNESCO World Heritage List, in an effort to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. It was approved May 13 by representatives of more than 20 State Parties and Associated States, and encourages the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and its Caribbean field offices to: continue to support Caribbean SIDS capacity development initiatives, to support future Caribbean capacity building programmes on world heritage, and to keep systematic follow-up communication with participants to ensure progress in the nomination dossiers.
It encourages States Parties, among other steps, to: endeavour to establish a National World Heritage Committee by January 2015, engage in tertiary level institutions in capacity building initiatives Caribbean heritage, set deadlines to have tentative list submissions completed for a follow-up meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2015, and to adopt programmes to recognise World Heritage Day on April 18 and the International Decade for the People of African Descent 2015 to 2024.
Specific aims were also set for 2015 for Antigua and Barbuda’s Antigua Naval Dockyard and Suriname’s Jodensavanne and Cassipora Cemetery nominations to be advanced, and for Guyana to explore hosting a public awareness workshop.
Furthermore, participants are encouraged among other steps, to: identify whatever technical assistance or expertise is needed to advance preparation of nomination dossiers, and to keep all lines of communication open to build a sub-regional network of experts, and to continue to explore possible serial, transnational and transboundary nominations.
The meeting had been organised and financed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs, in collaboration with the World Heritage Centre and UNESCO offices in Kingston and Havana.
Another five-day meeting, ‘‘Strengthening the capacities of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Saba and Suriname to implement the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’’ will kick off today. The objective will be to bring together those involved in the implementation of policies for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, and to facilitate dialogue on a subregional level.
Unfortunately the Saba government honours some private interests more than the general interest of the whole island. In 2011 they applied for the UNESCO status of world-heritage monument also on the basis of cultural heritage of the island: traditional cottages, some churches, archeology, old village structures and landscape.
This application was so unprofessional that the Dutch national Council for Cultural Heritage (RCE) – which advises the UNESCO – asked me as representant of the Cultural Heritage association Heemschut, to deliver arguments and materials to support and clarify this application.
I could deliver about 4 MB scanned materials, but when it became clear that the government had not achieved anything to protect cultural heritage on Saba, the report for the UNESCO was still very negative.
In the past there had been – already in 1990 – a scientific study with recommendations, after 2010 support and assistance to make a list of protected monuments was provided by the Stadsherstel, the monuments-organisation of the government of Amsterdam. The National Restoratiun Fund made available for Saba 1.2 million euros. (That money has not been used and is likely to be transferred to other islands that are doing better.)
Without a list of to be protected builings and elements, without an independant advisory commission for the local government, without further detailed implementation of the Saban Monuments Ordinance, nothing will happen.
That is not just about which the UNESCO will not list Saba as a world heritage, but it also very regrettable for those values that can still be found and that also have an economic value because it is one of the attractions for the tourists and could be stressed far more in publicity in the tourist sector.
The official document about Saba for the UNESCO (in dutch) can be downloaded from