About the Project that Established the CHN

The establishment of the Caribbean Heritage Network is the product of a multi-year project of the Organization of American States, funded by the United States Permanent Mission to the OAS. Over three years of extensive consultation, discussion, and activities on the ground, the 14 participating OAS member states have determined regional priorities for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage in the region and have together created innovative approaches to some of the most pressing challenges facing Caribbean heritage in the 21st century. 

Below is a brief summary of the project concept and original components that have contributed to the ongoing workplan of the Caribbean Heritage Network. 

 

Project Goal

To expand the socio-economic benefits of cultural heritage in the OAS member states of the Anglophone Caribbean as valuable, non-renewable, multi-component, and multi-stakeholder public resources through a new paradigm of public engagement.

Project Rationale

This multi-nation project was conceived by the OAS as a new approach to the protection and promotion of an expanding range of heritage types while at the same time creating a framework in which each country’s heritage resources are carefully managed for long-term sustainability.

Caribbean member states of the OAS have expressed on multiple occasions their interest in obtaining technical support for heritage preservation and development efforts through the Interamerican Committee on Culture (CIC). The present project seeks to facilitate multi-sectoral stakeholder engagement in solving some of the most serious challenges to the effective conservation and management of the region’s cultural heritage:

  • Limited financial and human resources for national administrators of cultural heritage, including declining public funding for culture, lack of continuous professional training resources, overly-narrow scope of national legislation pertaining to cultural heritage, shortage of sufficient personnel to manage officially recognized heritage resources, and deficient monitoring and enforcement of cultural heritage policies.
  • Frequent reliance on short-term, income generating “mass” tourism in regional and national planning. This includes unsubstantiated or unrealized promises of employment and economic development; the framing of cultural heritage as an exploitable resource to attract primarily foreign investors and consumers; and the lack of viable economic alternatives to tourism for local peoples throughout the region.
  • The disintegration and disappearance of local traditions and skills resulting in the breakdown of collective memory and shared identity. This is linked to the proliferation of global media; imbalance between rural and urban economic opportunities; replacement of local ingredients, cuisine, and subsistence strategies by imported food and foodstuffs; “brain drain” and increased emigration; and troubling changes to intergenerational relationships.

To contribute to a solution to these region-wide challenges, the overall project plan consists of two phases:

Phase I (2012-2014)

Multi-sectoral needs assessment supplemented by consultations with individual stakeholders throughout the region, to assess challenges and opportunities for building and sharing capacity in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage.

Phase II (2015-2017)

Implementation of five simultaneous project components, each addressing a priority need identified by the regional stakeholders during Phase I: facilitating professional networking and capacity sharing, strengthening protective legislation, modeling effective national registers, developing sustainable tourism programmes, and addressing curricular gaps in the training of rising heritage professionals.

Phase II Project Components

The project consists of five components built on the recommendations of regional stakeholders from public, private, NGO, and academic sectors collected during the earlier needs assessment phase of the project (2012-2014).

Although hosted at specific locales throughout the region, each of the components in the current implementation phase (2015-2017) are designed for adaptability throughout the region.

 

Professional Networking & Capacity Sharing

The Establishment of a Caribbean Heritage Institute and Network to facilitate communication and capacity sharing between heritage agencies, professionals, and students in the participating member states. It will feature online resources and teaching materials and regional directories of heritage studies programmes, heritage specialists, and traditional practitioners. Hosted at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill Campus Barbados.

Protective Legislation & Fiscal Incentives

A Regional Standard for Evaluating and Improving Protective Heritage Legislation and Related Financial Incentive Policies and Laws to provide an instrument to assess and strengthen the effectiveness of protective heritage legislation all countries. In addition, this component will evaluate the potential use of fiscal incentives for property owners to encourage voluntary conservation. Hosted by a task force of regional and legal experts.

 

Inventories & Registers

A Regional Model for Establishing National Registers of Heritage Places, to document and monitor a wide range of heritage resources through an effective and adaptable register process, for ongoing conservation efforts and risk preparedness. The project is intended to serve as a model to develop and improve registers in the entire region. Hosted by the Antiquities, Monuments, and Museums Corporation (Bahamas) and the St. Christopher National Trust (St. Kitts and Nevis).

Sustainable Heritage Tourism

A Sustainable Heritage Endorsement Programme, to implement a new model to help develop viable and responsible heritage tourism economies throughout the Caribbean. It is focused on encouraging the protection and promotion of tangible and intangible heritage among communities that now receive direct few benefits from the regional tourism industry. Hosted and coordinated by the Grenada National Trust.

Education & Professional Development

A Regional Directory and Curricular Enhancement of Heritage Education to identify existing heritage programmes and courses in the region; evaluate the main gaps in current heritage curricula; and to demonstrate the process of developing online courses to fill curricular gaps in collaboration with the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies.