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The Touchstones of Identity: Preserving World Heritage

“The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP) was created to test the hypothesis that culture was, and is, an integral component of the development equation,” says Shiraz Allibhai, Deputy-Director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), “and that it can be a powerful tool to improve quality of life.” AKHCP devised a unique approach to urban regeneration that involves restoration and conservation, the creation of parks and gardens, urban rehabilitation and employment and vocational training programmes.

For three decades, AKHCP not only tested, but revised and refined its approach at 11 World Heritage Sites considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be of “outstanding value to humanity”. Many of these sites are in cities in the Muslim world, which are suffering from poverty, lack of infrastructure and services, post-war conditions, population growth and environmental degradation. But many of these same cities contain priceless riches that could be turned into assets for those living amongst them.

From Mali to Malaysia, AKHCP’s urban regeneration projects have helped transform historic cities and the lives of countless numbers of people. Overall, AKTC has worked on over 350 restoration and conservation projects in 11 countries, including 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and created 10 major parks and gardens that have been visited by over 50 million people. AKHCP’s work, which has received over 18 major awards and is now recognised as the highest standard in restoration, is also helping shape government policy on the value of historic urban centres and the role of culture in strengthening identity and instilling hope.

For more information about AKHCP's work on World Heritage Sites.