UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa and Representative to Kenya, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, paid a courtesy call to Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Ambassador (Dr.) Amina Mohamed on 8 October 2021 to discuss national priorities for development and potential areas to strengthen collaborations. The Cabinet Secretary warmly welcomed the UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa and Representative to Kenya recognizing the strong relationship between UNESCO and her Ministry in many fields where they are working hand in hand for sustainable development.
Prof. Gijzen shared his vision on how UNESCO can reinforce its partnership with the Ministry to bolster the promotion of sports, culture and heritage, especially for the benefit of the local communities. He applauded Kenya for its leadership in implementation of key UNESCO Conventions in the field of World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity. He also encouraged the Cabinet Secretary to advocate for the ratification of three complementary Conventions in UNESCO portfolio focused on the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict, the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property and the protection of underwater cultural heritage, the benefits of which are being examined during a national workshop supported by UNESCO and implemented by the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO later this month.
Amb. Amina Mohamed, mentioned the Ushanga Kenya initiative, a National Government flagship project that aims to empower pastoralist women involved in beadwork by transforming their traditional art into tradable commodities for significant economic benefit and sustainable livelihoods. She encouraged UNESCO to join and partner in the Ushanga Initiative as it is a community model anchored on mobilizing women into organized cooperative groups, providing infrastructure for production, and facilitating access to local, regional, and international markets, and therefore, encouraging sustainable tourism.
He further recalled UNESCO 2018 collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya as part of the UNESCO Open Digital Library on Traditional Games (a repository of freely available resources about traditional games), which draws on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, Traditional Sports and Games, and Memory of the World programs. Prof. Gijzen and Ambassador Mohamed agreed that more opportunities are available to develop collaborations in this area, notably for the benefit of Kenyan youth, who could be trained in developing traditional games into e-games tapping into the billion-dollar gaming industry.
Prof. Gizen acknowledged the contribution of Japan, which is supporting a 2021-2022 capacity building program for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in Africa, which UNESCO is implementing in partnership with Kenya, and which has equipped a training center for underwater archaeology in Mombasa that will welcome a training workshop for participants from the Africa region in early 2022. Amb. Mohamed shared plans for the development of the first underwater museum on the African continent. The tourist attraction in its late completion stages is located in Kilifi county and will allow for scuba tourists to explore remains from ships lying at the Indian Ocean floor for more than 600 years.
In concluding their first meeting, Amb. Mohamed and Prof. Gijzen agreed to build on the close collaborations established among the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage, the Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO, and the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in order to harness the potential of culture for sustainable development and peace-building in Kenya.
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