Patrimoine sans frontières

Focus on Sámi culture and its legal recognition

Lapland, high European North and popular winter destination for tourists, is home to the largest native people of Europe and the only indigenous people of the European Union, Sámi. There are between 80,000 and 100,000 of them and their territory, called Sapmi, spreads across four countries which are Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Though anthropologists develop several opposing theories on their origin, there is no doubt that they have been in Lapland for thousand years. The first document confirming their presence dates back to the 1st century AD with Tacite’s writings. United by the same history and culture across the borders, they have adopted a common national day, flag and anthem. However, they are also known for their diversity as there are 3 main Sami languages and some 30 traditional regional outfits.

This “Focus on Sámi culture” will first look at its legal recognition. Next ones “Focus on” will be about Sami’s cultural practices.

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Focus on the natural and cultural heritage of Greenland

In May 2016, the UNESCO’s World Heritage Center, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Union of Concerned Scientists have published an alarming report about the increasing vulnerability to climate changes of some World Heritage Sites (This report is available for free on the UNESCO website : http://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/883/). It is reporting some updated data on global warming but the report’s goal is to give a work basis for the future and the management, including tourism, of these World Heritage Sites.

Through 31 cases study, this report deals with the complex relationships between climate changes, World Heritage Sites, and tourism. However, this article will be focused on the case study of Greenland, first country concerned by global warming and this article is followed by an interview of Christian Koch Madsen, Danish archaeologist specialized on Greenland.

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Focus on the ancient Libyan heritage

Libya is home to a rich and well-preserved heritage little known outside of specialist networks. Today, the country boasts the remains of all of the civilisations which have settled there since the Stone Age. Among them, the wall paintings of the Acacus - a mountainous region in Western Libya - some of which are as old as 12,000 BC. This site, just like Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Ghadames, is on the World Heritage list. As well as these UNESCO sites, the country also hosts numerous relics, tombs, churches and temples from the Byzantine, Umayyad, Ottoman and Roman eras.

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Focus on the Sana’a's heritage.

Sana'a : a millenary city passing away?

With its brick tower-houses richly decorated with white gypsum and resembling gingerbread houses, Old Sana’a looks like a place out of a fairytale. The old part of the Yemeni capital, which is one of the oldest cities in the world, was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986. Nevertheless, despite being a protected city (as per the Antiquities Law of 1997 and the Building Law of 2002) a large number of buildings are today in an advanced state of disrepair, much to the regret of the national heritage campaigners who find themselves powerless in the face of the scale of this problem.

Years of neglect and failure to guarantee the preservation and integrity of the Old Town prompted UNESCO to threaten to axe Old Sana’a from World Heritage list. Following this ultimatum, the government and the municipality pledged to act to preserve the Old Town and ensure that it be kept on the list of protected monuments. But in a country embroiled in a political crisis since 2011 which has recently worsened, the renovation and conservation projects promised by the government are not a priority and have fallen behind schedule.

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Focus on UNESCO and the protection of Syrian cultural heritage.

UNESCO and the protection of Syrian cultural heritage.

An interview with Cristina Menegazzi, head of the « emergency safeguarding of the Syrian heritage project ».

One  of  Patrimoine  sans  frontières’  (PSF-Heritage  without  Borders)  original  missions    was, and still is, to inform the international community and the general public of the  threats on cultural heritage. For 22 years, PSF has been trying to be the spokesperson for endangered heritage. While standing with the local populations, in crisis and post-crisis  situations, PSF aims at leading them to recognise their cultural heritage, a necessary process to see through the transition between the emergency and the development phases.

While deploring the humanitarian crisis, Patrimoine sans frontières released an alert on   the destruction of Aleppo’s heritage on the 30th of August 2012 (to read here). From then on, PSF has been working to implement a heritage awareness project for the Syrian population. Since May 2014, such a project is being developed, thanks to Heritage for Peace’s partnership.   

On the 26th and 27th of May 2014, UNESCO organised an international conference entitled “Rallying the International Community to Safeguard Syria’s Cultural Heritage”. It gathered local, national and international actors that work in Syria and in the entire world to protect the Syrian heritage. The aim of this meeting was to consider the implementation of the “Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage” project funded by the European Union and the Flemish government.

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Focus on Pristina, a city’s heritage at risk.

The capital of Kosovo is home to a rich architectural heritage which reflects its history, but the waves of destruction which have affected the city - and more generally the territory - since the end of the Second World War have deeply altered its appearance. Today, neglected by the authorities which are meant to protect it, subject to botched restoration work and illegal demolition, Pristina’s urban heritage and particularly that of the old town, is threatened to the extent that many experts fear that this historic zone and its monuments may disappear [1].

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