The OWHC is growing rapidly owing especially to its seven regional secretariats: Regensburg for Northwest Europe, Budapest for Eastern and Central Europe, Valparaiso for Latin America, Kazan for Euro-Asia and Gyeongju for Asia-Pacific. Two other regional secretariats - Cordoba for Southern Europe / Mediterranean, and Tunis for Africa and Middle East - have been created by a resolution adopted and approved by the General Assembly of the OWHC in Puebla, Mexico, in September 2001.
The regional secretariats add a lot of dynamism to the OWHC. They facilitate exchanges between the cities of the same region that share the same culture and the same language.
Out of the 546 cultural cites registered on the world heritage list set up by UNESCO, the twelve Arab countries that have signed the world heritage convention total 53 sites, including 22 historic cities.
The constitution of a region-wide network of cities could constitute an opportunity for our cities to set up cooperation programs, promote exchange of expertise and experience, and position themselves as credible partners for an insightful research of funding for the promotion and safeguarding of our heritage and also to support the candidacy of other cities with the UNESCO.
The cities appealed to are: Algiers and Gardaia (Algeria), Fez, Marrackech, Meknès, Tétouan, Essaouira and Rabat (Morocco), Cairo (Egypt), Ghadamès (Libya), Tunis, Sousse, Kairouan and Monastir (as an observer member) (Tunisia), Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata (Mauritania), Alep and Damas (Syria), Shibam, San'a' and Zabid (Yemen), and East Jerusalem (Palestine).
The seat of the Regional Secretariat for North Africa and Middle East is based in the city of Tunis at the headquarters of the Tunis Association de Sauvegarde de la Médina (ASM) (information below), and the regional coordinator is the Director General of the ASM, Mr. Zoubeïr MOUHLI.
Tunis is proud and thankful to be the seat of this Regional Secretariat for Africa and Middle East, whose goal will be to promote the region's heritage, by strengthening solidarity among the cities.
The entire region shares a common history and speaks the same language, thus facilitating collaboration and exchange of experience. A global strategy will make it possible to resolve more rapidly problems such as overdensification or ruralization, which threaten the delicate socioeconomic balance of these cities.
We are responsible for the legacy that was handed down by past generations. It is our duty to preserve it, promote it, and have it recognized by the global community.
In Novembre 2002, the ASM and the Tahar Haddad Cultural Club organized, under the aegis of the Municipality of Tunis, an "Heritage and Youth" day with, on the program, conferences on the world heritage, followed by workshops.
Young participants (between the ages of 18 and 20) who are very interested in heritage had to design a cultural activities project (popular and media) that took place over one year, showing creative and imaginative talents in order to realize education or public awareness activities concerning heritage. Prizes were awarded to the best three projects (1st prize: participation in the youth forum of the World Heritage Cities at the OWHC General Assembly and Symposium (September 2003 in Rhodes, in Greece) - other prizes: sets of books on heritage, realization of the projects selected, choice of the founding member of the "Heritage and Youth" Club.
During the first meeting of the world heritage cities of the Africa / Middle East region, which took place in Tunis from April 29 to May 1, 2003, a memorandum of agreement specifying the objectives of the Regional Secretariat was signed by the member cities. It should be noted that, prior to that date, the second Mediterranean Regional Conference was held on June 9 and 10, 1997, at the Tunis City Hall under the theme: “Old neighbourhoods, new life: rehabilitation in the historic milieu”.
The third Regional Symposium was also held at the same place, on October 2, 1999, under the theme: “Traditional environments, contemporary uses”, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the classification of the Medina de Tunis as world heritage by the UNESCO.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the classification of the Medina, an international symposium under the theme: “World Heritage Cities, the classification… and after?” took place in Tunis on February 10 and 11, 2005.
The conferences always bring together around the chosen theme elected officials and experts from the cities that were classified as well as representatives from local and international institutions in charge of heritage.
It should also be noted that the Jean-Paul-L’Allier Prize for Heritage, 2011 edition, was awarded by the OWHC to the Municipality of Tunis for the rehabilitation and beautification project of the urban circuit “From Zitouna to Sidi Ibrahim” realization in collaboration with the ASN between 2008 and 2010.
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