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African World Heritage Day

Authored by Tommy Dolan
Published on 5th May, 2023 5 min read

African World Heritage Day

Today (05/05/2023) marks African World Heritage Day, which was proclaimed at the 38th General Conference of UNESCO in 2015. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and to reflect upon Africa’s vibrant cultural and natural heritage, encouraging us to honour the Continent’s unique contribution to the world and to contemplate how we can ensure that heritage is preserved for future generations. This is a pressing task: although Africa is underrepresented on the World Heritage List, a high percentage of the African sites listed are on the World Heritage List in Danger.

As the Director of World Heritage, Lazare Eloundou Assomo, has highlighted, the concept of international co-operation for the safeguarding of national heritage was “born in Africa”.[1]  Whilst thought had been given to such an initiative following the devastation that resulted from the First World War, it was the decision, taken in the mid-1950s, to build the Aswan High Dam in Egypt that led to UNESCO’s adoption of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in November 1972.[2] Construction of the dam would have flooded the Abu Simbel temples; significant relics of ancient Egyptian civilization. 

The Abu Simbel temples in Egypt

In 1959 UNESCO launched an international safeguarding mission; the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were reassembled in appropriate locations; and the way was paved for the adoption of the World Heritage Convention. This remains (as UNESCO have put it) “the cornerstone of international cultural co-operation”.

British Online Archives would like to wish everyone a happy African World Heritage Day.

[1] See Mr Eloundou Assomo’s address on the occasion of African World Heritage Day 2022 at   

[2] A history of the World Heritage Convention can be found at

Authored by Tommy Dolan

Tommy Dolan

Tommy Dolan is Senior Editor at British Online Archives. He gained his PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh in 2016. Between 2019 and 2022 he was a post-doctoral fellow on the Leverhulme-funded project 'Rethinking Civil Society: History, Theory, Critique' at the University of York. He then joined the metadata team at the University of York library. Tommy has published in the Historical Journal, the Journal of the History of European Ideas, and Studia Hibernica. His research focuses on the way in which readings of history have influenced political thought in Ireland, particularly with respect to the architects of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Tommy is currently also co-editor of Writing the Troubles.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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