The complexity of conserving and revitalising an historic neighbourhood requires diverse knowledge and many disciplines, ranging from archaeology to engineering, from horticulture to preservation, from social mobilisation to public health.
In successful projects such as Azhar Park in Cairo, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has brought a variety of knowledge to bear by creating informal partnerships with foreign and local experts, academic institutions, the private sector, government ministries and local communities.
The Trust has formalised some of these collaborations in the form of Public-Private Partnerships – notably in Egypt, India, Pakistan and Mali – which engage the energies of public and private institutions for the public good. Done well, they can have an enormous impact. But to succeed, they should contain the following elements:
Diverse expertise: Partnerships are most effective when they bring together the right combination of expertise from government, the private sector, civil society and the community.
A social component: It is not enough to conserve monuments; community members must be engaged in such projects in ways that improve their quality of life. The goal should be to engage them in a way that makes them the effective guardians of cultural heritage.
Clear goals and standards: All partners must understand and commit to clearly defined objectives. Benchmarks must be set for the achievement of these goals in terms of timeliness and quality.
Flexibility: Partnerships must be able and willing to adapt to change. There can be delays and additional costs, but also intriguing opportunities – such as the Ayyubid Wall – that require adaptation of the partnership.
A plan for sustainability: Before restoration begins, mechanisms must be found to ensure that landmark monuments, clusters of buildings or even historic districts can generate at least a portion of the funds for their own maintenance.