A team of experts from UNESCO including UNESCO’s Associate Programme Specialist, Xiangling Chen and Wildlife Conservation Consultant, Matthew Hatchwell have met with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt at the Ministry’s Head Office, Kingharman Road, Freetown. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the preparation of the Gola-Tiwai Complex Dossier for Sierra Leone. The UNESCO experts would conduct stakeholder engagements and hold technical committee meetings with state party representatives in a view to finalizing the dossier.
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre based in Paris, France, supported by the Government of Japan has prioritized Sierra Leone to receive assistance in 2022 to build the technical capacity of Sierra Leone for Tiwai Island and Gola Rainforest National Park to be on the World Heritage list. Sierra Leone should complete and submit the dossier by the end of January, 2023.
Giving the purpose of their visit, UNESCO’s Associate Programme Specialist, Xiangling Chen said they were at the Ministry to introduce the objective of their mission to the Minister. She recalled that in January 2022, they sent a mission from UNESCO to update the tentative list of Sierra Leone to include Gola and Tiwai, which she said is now updated and they are ready to start preparation of the nomination process. She added that they would have technical meetings after their field visits and establish the roadmap of the preparation of the nomination of the dossier. “Our objective is to finalize the dossier and submit it by January 2023”, she said. She appreciated the Minister’s support in the process, saying that they would keep her posted on progress as they get along.
In her remarks, Dr. Memunatu Pratt welcomed the UNESCO experts to Sierra Leone and expressed appreciation to them for undertaking this very important exercise. She said the exercise is long overdue considering the fact that since the last nomination of the six sites, much have not progressed until she came, noting that even the UNESCO conventions were not ratified until she came in an resuscitated the link between UNESCO and the Ministry which she said has been very fruitful.
She maintained that Sierra Leone is endowed with wildlife, cultural and eco-tourism heritage which have not been given much attention but with the efforts of the Ministry and Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) progress have been made together with the National Tourist Board. She said discussion around wildlife and cultural heritage sites have not been in the national discourse, hence there is need to raise the awareness on the development of the dossiers and finalizing of the process.