Counting the Achievements, Overcoming the Challenges – 5 Years of UNESCO World Heritage status by the Heritage Department of the National Parks Authority
On the 16th of July 2016, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. This year we are celebrating our 5th Anniversary of this momentous occasion.
Inscription on the World Heritage List requires that a site be of Outstanding Universal Value: In other words, it “is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
Furthermore, a site is only inscribed if the appropriate management structures are in place to preserve this value for present and future generations. To become a World Heritage Site is to validate the hard work of generations of artisans, masons, carpenters, guides, researchers, politicians, lawyers, managers and – most importantly – our communities, in developing sustainable management practices and protecting our heritage.
The past five years have brought many new highs for the National Park and for Antigua and Barbuda. The UNESCO Cluster Office has recognized our World Heritage Site as a regional standard – especially for our work on disaster planning and mitigation, evaluating impacts of climate change, and our long-standing commitment to authentic conservation and stabilization of our historical structures.
Over the past two years, extensive stabilization work has been undertaken in the Dockyard itself, as well as in the ruins at the Blockhouse. We have also, through 2019, welcomed more visitors than ever to our site, reinforcing Antigua and Barbuda’s attractiveness as a major destination of choice for travelers from across the globe. For us, these are extremely positive signs that we are on the right path.
Despite these positive developments, we continue to prepare for a number of challenges with which most small developing states have to contend. One of the most difficult is maintaining our inscription while balancing the need for development. Other sites in the Caribbean are being placed on the endangered list only a short while after inscription due to inconsistent development policies. We are actively working with community members, developers, and our stakeholders and friends, to implement policies which protect our Outstanding Universal Value while promoting sustainable livelihoods – as well as protecting life and property from disasters and the impacts of climate change.
We are also promoting new research in archaeology, history, environment and ecosystems management, geology, and heritage, with Antiguan and Barbudan as well as international partners. One of our long-term goals is to make our World Heritage Site a center for research excellence, creating new opportunities for sustainable employment and benefits to the communities of Antigua and Barbuda.
Despite the hardships, we are anticipating that the actions undertaken will sustain our World Heritage Site for generations to come. We are looking forward to the next five years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrating “From Dockyard to Shirley Heights: Celebrating Our Lives, Our People”.