Afghanistan: UNESCO continues to protect the Minaret of Jam with local communities

The Minaret of Jam was the first Afghan site inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, in 2002. Due to its fragility, it was immediately placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in recognition of the protective measures that needed to be implemented. Over the past two decades, UNESCO maintained the site, mapped it and planned its sustainable protection, collaborating closely with all stakeholders, including local communities.

Furthermore, since 2020, the project “Safeguarding the Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam, Afghanistan”, is led by UNESCO with the financial support of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH). Because of the Minaret’s unique location at the junction of two rivers, one of the main risks is seasonal flash flood events, which may have a significant adverse impact on its long-term stability and structural resistance. This requires periodic preventive actions such as removing stones and sediment affecting the flow of the rivers.

Between February and March 2022, over a three-week period, UNESCO supported a new emergency clearing of the riverbeds of the Jam and Hari Rivers. Thanks to this initiative with a local contractor, 60 community members from six villages in Jam were engaged daily in clearing operations, through short-term Cash-for-Work job opportunities.

UNESCO also commissioned HAFO, an Afghan NGO committed to the protection of cultural heritage, to simultaneously conduct a new rapid assessment on the stability of the Minaret and its associated river defense system, as well as a needs assessment of the Jam communities and their living conditions.

A tool for poverty alleviation and social cohesion

Ghor Province, where the Jam Minaret is located, has a population of ca. one million people, and is among the poorest and most isolated provinces in Afghanistan. The lack of basic infrastructure and employment opportunities severely impact local communities. In addition to safeguarding this unique World Heritage site, this project successfully used the protection of cultural heritage as a tool for poverty alleviation and strengthening social cohesion.

UNESCO’s experience shows that cultural heritage preservation and access to culture are essential elements to support livelihoods and communities, alleviate poverty and contribute to economic recovery. In this sense, UNESCO is committed to support the people of Afghanistan within the framework of the United Nations Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF) for Afghanistan, including through activities to engage with local communities and improve their livelihoods.

UNESCO and ALIPH are committed to continuing their collaboration to support the communities with several emergency actions that will prevent the deterioration of this historic monument.