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UNESCO workshop raises awareness of the role of culture in peacebuilding and sustainable development in South Sudan

On 14 March 2017, UNESCO invited a broad range of participants from the culture sector in South Sudan to an awareness-raising workshop on the three UNESCO Conventions ratified by South Sudan in 2016, namely: 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions , 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Convened at the UNESCO Office in Juba, the workshop gathered academia from Juba University, NGOs, and Ministry staff responsible for culture, environment and archives to learn more about the guidance and resources offered by these normative instruments for intercultural dialogue, peace building, and sustainable development in South Sudan.

The workshop was opened by the Head of the UNESCO Juba Office, Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, who highlighted the challenges posed by the conflict situation in South Sudan to the safeguarding and promotion of its culture. He underscored the importance of culture for national identity and nation building, and the need to promote culture for peace-building and dialogue—especially among the 64 different ethnic groups in South Sudan. Acknowledging the numerous NGOs successfully promoting culture in South Sudan, he recognized the strong local appetite to engage in culture activities. In view of the upcoming submission South Sudan’s Tentative List of World Heritage sites, Mr. Alam urged the national team to maintain the determination needed to finalize the required forms, and called on participants to create a workplan for priority culture actions in South Sudan.

The Culture Programme Specialist from the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Ms. Karalyn Monteil, led detailed presentations on the 1972, 2003 and 2005 Conventions, which provided an introduction to each Convention as well as guidance on developing policies and legislation as well as undertaking inventories of cultural heritage and the creative industries in South Sudan. The funding mechanisms linked with each of the Conventions was also explained in detail, and participants were encouraged to prepare International Assistance requests for policy development, the elaboration of inventories and capacity building.

During the discussions, the participants noted the strong need for awareness-raising of the three Conventions among local populations. The need to mobilize media in South Sudan to help spread the word about the unifying role of culture in South Sudan and to open the discussion to a wider range of stakeholders was widely agreed upon. Lastly, the participants embraced the use of United Nations’ National Days to raise awareness of the potential role of culture in South Sudan and suggested celebrating African World Heritage Day on 5 May, International Museum Day on 18 May and the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on 21 May.

Expressing her satisfaction with the workshop, Dr. Nadia Arop Dudi, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports stated: “It is important to raise awareness about the role of culture in building our national identity in South Sudan and promoting our cultural diversity. The Government of South Sudan is counting on UNESCO’s continued support to increase our national capacities to use the Culture Conventions to sustainably develop the culture sector in South Sudan.”

Following the workshop, UNESCO shall accompany national authorities and experts in South Sudan with the preparation of International Assistance requests to the various funding mechanisms linked with the UNESCO Culture Conventions in view of strengthening their implementation in South Sudan. UNESCO also plans to continue supporting South Sudan with their efforts to create a National Museum and a National Archive in the capital.

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