UNESCO and SFD finalize Action Plan Safeguarding Yemen Cultural Heritage

On 16-18 July, UNESCO and the Social Fund for Development (SFD), with the support of the European Union, held a Strategic Planning Workshop in Cairo to fine-tune the plan of action for immediate interventions aimed at safeguarding Yemen’s cultural heritage. The workshop built on an unprecedented damage assessment covering three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Sana’a, Shibam, Zabid), in addition to Aden.

The damage assessment evaluates the extent of conflict-related destruction of the historical urban environments and identifies sites rehabilitation plan for cash for work schemes in the four target cities. Those interventions are part of the EU-funded Project “Cash for Work: Improving livelihood opportunities of urban youth in Yemen”. This EUR 10 million project generates income and enhances livelihoods for Yemeni youth through employment opportunities in restoration work to rehabilitate Yemen’s valuable architectural heritage affected by the conflict.

During the Strategic Planning Workshop, UNESCO and SFD discussed a schedule of activities including logistical arrangements with the objective to launch immediate interventions. Participants came up with priority actions focusing on private and public buildings (houses, museums), public spaces, and small infrastructures, with a view to stabilize and maintain exemplary buildings, but also allow for youth and community-led revitalization activities such as cultural programming and services. The UNESCO/EU/SFD partnership emphasizes the importance of inclusive community participation in decision-making and ownership of the rehabilitative employment program.

SFD Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Wesam Qaid, stressed, “Heritage cities are living environments. It is crucial to make sure communities are consulted, rehabilitations interventions understood and accepted, and overall strategy owned by local stakeholders.”

Ms. Lamis Il-Iryani, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at SFD highlighted the value of Cash for Work in supporting those in urgent need of support: “When questioned about the personal changes in their lives, beneficiaries of former Cash for Work Projects mentioned dignity and empowerment. Cash for Work is not only about providing food and supplies. It allows communities to buy what they really need”.

The Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for the GCC, Ms. Anna Paolini, stated, “The workshop provided a good basis to build on our past successful work with SFD and advance our shared goal of promoting peace and social cohesion in Yemen through support for youth livelihoods and sustainable cultural programming.”