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“Strategic Planning Workshop: Needs and Strategy for Capacity-Building for Heritage in Africa” 
As Delivered Opening Ceremony Remarks for USUN Rome Chargé d’Affaires Rodney Hunter 
September 26, 2023

“Strategic Planning Workshop: Needs and Strategy for Capacity-Building for Heritage in Africa”  
As Delivered Opening Ceremony Remarks for  
USUN Rome Chargé d’Affaires Rodney Hunter 
Monday, September 25, 9:00 am – 11:00 am ICCROM Headquarters   


Good morning, everybody. 

First thing, I’d like to start by thanking Dr. Ndoro for the invitation to attend today’s event. I’m so excited about this being my first ICCROM event to be participating in. I’ve been here for a year and just haven’t had a chance to come over yet. But this is, I think, an apt first event for me to be here talking about and focusing on the cultural heritage of Africa. It’s a continent with so much diversity, rich, complex histories and legacies, that are worth protecting.  

The United States is a long-standing supporter of ICCROM’s work. We’re the leading contributor of assessed contributions to the organization and we’re an active participant in the governing bodies. But more importantly, we’re an active supporter of everything that you do. We’re encouraged to see programs such as the Youth.Heritage.Africa Program, doing the work that it’s doing tackling cross-cutting issues of cultural preservation and sustainable development.  

Dr. Ndoro spoke about the power of African youthful energy.  And I agree with that concept because that’s you, that’s your colleagues, that’s your friends. That’s how we’re getting things done. We’ve got to find ways to empower that energy to support that energy more, and to move it even beyond the African continent to share some of the work that you guys are doing with the rest of the world. And I think we do that with ICCROM, with its global network of cultural heritage experts. ICCROM is well placed to build the capacity of young professionals like you to protect and preserve national traditions, landmarks, from threats posed by conflict, and climate change, while also advancing economic livelihoods.  

I’m happy to see so many heritage professionals and supporting Institute’s around this table today. Together, over the course of this week, you’re going to examine this important link that’s been spoken about so much today, between cultural heritage and its protection in relation to economic and social development, how those can work together, how they can strengthen each other. From youth employment to climate smart agriculture development, heritage preservation can be a key driver for moving sustainable development forward.  

The United States recognizes this connection through our Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. In fact, ICCROM is a grant recipient of the Ambassador’s Fund through the Ukraine Cultural Heritage Response Initiative, which was mentioned earlier. Many of our projects around the world contribute to our post disaster and post conflict recovery efforts, while others build opportunities for economic development in the communities. Since 2001, the Ambassador’s Fund has supported more than 1000 projects, many on the African continent, with eight projects awarded on the continent in 2022 alone.  

Year after year, we’re reminded how interconnected the world has become. We’ve all seen the detrimental effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, of climate change, of ongoing conflicts, of corruption. All of these have had effects on our global community. And last week, heads of state from all over the world gathered in New York City for the UN General Assembly and discussed our collective progress. And also some of the places where our progress is lacking on reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The truth is – we are lagging and have a lot of ground to make up to get back on track.  

In his remarks before the General Assembly, President Biden asked: “Will we find within ourselves the courage to do what must be done to preserve the planet, to protect human dignity, to provide opportunities for people everywhere, and to defend the tenets of the United Nations? There can be only one answer to that question: We must. And we will.”  

So, we’re only going to succeed if we break out of our silos, if we work together if we recognize these global challenges can only be met with global solutions. And we know that everyone gathered in this room today is the first step toward making that happen. So, let’s get this youthful energy that’s bursting out of Africa out into the rest of the world. You can change that. Let me change that – You will change the world. You’re going to be the ones that make it better.