Rethinking Heritage for Development: International Framework, Local Impacts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of European Culture and Languages


Improving the lives of disenfranchised people by implementing internationally funded development projects is a global challenge. Models have thus far failed, testified by issues of poverty, inequality and resource depletion, notably in Africa. The potential of heritage (understood as including both tangible and intangible elements) to provide a new model of human development is widely acknowledged (e.g. the five UN Resolutions on culture and heritage for development adopted between 2010 and 2015). The international community called for its inclusion in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, despite overwhelming support in theory, heritage has been marginalised in the 17 SDGs. One reason for such marginalisation is the lack of critical analyses of international projects on heritage for development funded as part of the implementation of the development goals. Another reason is the lack of analyses of the history of international policies and narratives on heritage for development.

Research on this topic tends to focus on a narrow understanding of economic development. This project aims to move beyond this narrow understanding. It will be the first comprehensive historical, multi-scalar (international, national, and local levels) and interdisciplinary project, critically analysing whether and how heritage contributes to the three pillars of sustainable development (environmental, social and economic) within the international development agenda. More specifically, this project will analyse the policies and narratives elaborated by international organisations (UN, UNESCO and World Bank) on heritage for development over the past thirty years. It will then assess how these international approaches have been implemented on the ground. Based on official evaluations, it will provide critical analyses of the successes and failures of all of the projects on heritage for development funded in Africa (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal) through the Millennium Development Goals. These evaluations have never been analysed, yet they provide the most complete data on the successes and failures of the only heritage for development projects funded within the international development agenda. These projects were also selected because they focus on issues central to the SDGs and the three pillars of sustainability: to ensure the empowerment of women through equal access to vocational trainings (SDG4; target 4.3) and equal rights to decent employment (SDG 5; target 5.a); to develop economic opportunities for marginalised groups (SDG 8; target 8.9) as well as to halt biodiversity loss (SDG 15; target 15.5).

Further analyses will be conducted by interviewing participants in the culture for development projects in Mozambique. This ethnographic study will assess the veracity of some of the results from official evaluations. Mozambique was selected because of the projects' ambitious goals, the results achieved and because of the PI's familiarity with this country.

This research will identify shortcomings in how heritage has contributed to the international development goals so far and will propose innovative models on how to improve this contribution. The results and recommendations will be disseminated through three policy briefings, the website, and used to influence current and future development agendas through workshops with intergovernmental organisations and selected national ministers of the four African countries considered.

The PI has unique access to archives at UNESCO and the World Bank, has already conducted research on the global challenges using similar methodologies, has collected data on international organisations and in Mozambique and has experience of drafting international policies on heritage for development. The interest shown by diverse intergovernmental organisations to take part in the workshop further demonstrates the need for such research.

Planned Impact

The project is likely to provoke very significant interest from a range of non-academic user groups. The PI has a wealth of experience working with intergovernmental organisations, ministries and media outlets.

1) The following intergovernmental organisations are central beneficiaries of this project: the UN, UN Women, UNESCO, UNDP, UNWTO, UNEP, the World Bank, IUCN, ICCROM and the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF). They have been carefully selected because they have been responsible for defining and implementing the SDGs, particularly SDGs 4, 5, 8 and 15 and have been involved in heritage for development projects. They will be involved in identifying the future of the development agenda. The results of the research will thus be of interest for their daily work. At the end of the project, a dedicated workshop will be organised for these organisations to identify ways of integrating the results and recommendations into their work. UNESCO (Jyoti Hosagrahar), IUCN (Tim Badman), the World Bank (Stefania Abakerli), ICCROM (Webber Ndoro) and AWHF (Souayibou Varissou) have already agreed to take part in this workshop, organised in London in cooperation with ICOMOS-UK, a leading heritage organisation. An international consultant, Dr George Abungu, with a wealth of diplomatic experience will help the PI to ensure the participation of the other organisations and to inform them regularly of the research progress.

2) Ministries of culture, tourism, gender, economy and environment in the selected countries on the DAC list in Africa (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal) implemented heritage for development projects within the framework of the MDGs and have been mainstreaming the SDGs into national policies and programmes. They will thus be interested in this research, its results and recommendations. The three policy briefings will be sent to these ministries. A workshop will subsequently be organised with them to discuss how the results and recommendations could be integrated within their work. This workshop will be organised in Maputo (Mozambique) by the PI in cooperation with Dr Abungu and Kaleidoscopio, a leading Southern African organisation on cultural policy.

3) NGOs and non-profit organisations working on heritage for development in Africa (e.g. the Centre for Heritage and Development in Africa, or the Institute for Development Ecology, Conservation and Cooperation) are integral to implementing the SDGs or projects on heritage for development. They will find the results of and recommendations from the research important to guide their work. These organisations will also be consulted on the future of the global development agenda and could use the results of the research to argue for a more central place for heritage within this agenda. These organisations will be kept informed of the project through emails, social media and the website.

4) Participants in the selected heritage for development projects in Mozambique need to be informed of the results of the research to ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards. Three open meetings will be organised in Maputo, Inhambane and Island of Mozambique to discuss the results and each informant will receive a personal invitation.

5) The general public. Strong interest is aroused by discussions on international development. This has a direct impact on people's daily lives, as international aid is mostly paid by taxpayers who want to know how their money is being spent by intergovernmental organisations and as part of development assistance. Results of this research will be made available through media outlets, including The Conversation which has a monthly audience of 5 millions, and reach of 35 millions through Creative Commons republication or iNews, the 10th-most-circulated daily newspaper in the UK. The PI has already published the results of her latest (2017) book in The Conversation UK, The Conversation France and iNews.


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