Nevis World Heritage Committee Official Report By Evelyn Henville, Executive Chairperson

By Evelyn Henville:  

This release serves as official notice to the general public regarding the final report issued by the ICOMOS Experts on May 11, 2018.

This information can now be provided at this time as representatives of the Nevis World Heritage Committee have now officially met with the Nevis Island Administration Cabinet and presented the ICOMOS Upstream Final Report and have given them the respect of time to discuss and prepare their responses to the Committee.

Prior to that meeting, the report was vetted by the Nevis World Heritage Committee and the Minister of Culture to whom the committee reports. The committee’s suggestions were shared with the Minister who then arranged the Cabinet meeting for the committee to present the report and to seek permission to continue with the pursuit of World Heritage status for Nevis. What was shared with the NIA Cabinet is as follows:
• The background to the ICOMOS mission and the Upstream Process.

•The authenticity and integrity status of the City of Charlestown and other historic sites around the island.

• Assessment of the potential of the various historical sites for inscription on the World Heritage List.
• Conclusion and Recommendations of the ICOMOS evaluators.
• Recommendation from the Nevis World Heritage Committee for the way forward.

The most important element of the process is the Outstanding Universal Value of the town of Charlestown. The ICOMOS Experts determined, “If the city is to beconsidered outstanding as an example of colonial settlement in the Caribbean, its value would need to be apparent beyond its architecture and town planning, which in ICOMOS’ view cannot be seen as a remarkable survival of intact structures.”

In this regard, the evaluators provided the committee with forty one (41) suggested recommendations to consider as a way to continue the quest for World Heritage Status. These recommendations have been embraced by the committee and formulated into a strategic action plan for moving forward.

The Experts further reported: “Although ICOMOS cannot recommend that a nomination for the City of Charlestown be further explored, as what is remaining is insufficient to claim exceptional in the Criteria of the World Heritage Guidelines, it does nevertheless consider that what remains of the build heritage should be better protected, conserved and managed as national and local assets for the benefits of people now and for future generations.”

To this end, the Nevis World Heritage Committee recommended to the Nevis Island Administration that since the City of Charlestown in its entirety, as was presented to the Experts, cannot continue the quest for World Heritage status as many of the sites within the City have lost much of their authenticity and integrity, that we continue to explore a possible World Heritage Nomination for 2020 for the Bath Hotel, Bath Stream and Bath House Complex and our historic churches around the island. The ICOMOS Experts determined that these historical assets are of universal value and still have very high levels of authenticity and integrity remaining.

GOING FORWARD:
The Nevis World Heritage Committee recommended to the NIA’s Cabinet that we pursue a World Heritage Nomination for the Bath Hotel, Bath Stream and Bath House Complex and our historic churches around the island.

The Committee further recommended to Cabinet that if we really want to show ICOMOS and our people that we are serious about making good economic use of our cultural heritage, then we must establish a department of Heritage with the mission to protect and preserve our diverse culture and heritage.

Our Cultural Heritage must be given the same level of importance as the Department of Education or Department of Tourism, or any other Government Department. This Department must operate with permanency like any other so that when there is an election and the changing of the Members of Parliament, the focus on Heritage does not go away and the mission, vision and purpose do not change. This Department should have a staff consisting of the minimum of a Director, a Secretary, a Heritage Officer, a team of trained maintenance workers and archaeological consultants. It should also have an Advisory body made up of community members and some of the members of the present Nevis World Heritage Committee with specific skills to be able to advise the Department on the way forward.

Secondly and equally important, ICOMOS found there were no legal structures in place to protect our cultural and built heritage. We must put legislation in place that will protect our heritage. Only the Bath Hotel is mentioned by the NCEPA for protection.

This must be a priority for this government and future governments in order for Nevis to be considered for any World Heritage listings now or in the future. A strategic plan must be drawn up with action plans for each category of the ICOMOS recommendations, time frame for completion, costs, required skill sets and auditing and accountability procedures required for success.

We further proposed that we use our seat in the United Nations and on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to lobby for funds and technical assistance from the various members who may lobby us to achieve their successes in order to successfully carry out the forty one (41) recommendations made by ICOMOS and develop this Department of Heritage.

Synopsis of ICOMOS Forty One (41) Recommendations:

The ICOMOS Report provided forty one (41) recommendations going forward that will strengthen the protection, conservation and management of the cultural heritage of the City of Charlestown in particular and the Island of Nevis in general. These are irrespective of the World Heritage initiative and should be implemented in the interest of educating our population, informing our visitors, and to build our economic potential.

The Committee therefore is basically saying to the NIA Cabinet that we need to continue on this path of preserving our heritage and use it as our economic tool to build our children’s future while informing the world about who we are. The tourist will not come with a fine tooth comb as the ICOMOS Experts did, so the physical deficiencies that have already occurred will not make as great an impact. But we must stop depleting the physical attributes of our heritage as there will be no story to tell.

Here is just a sample of some of the ICOMOS Experts’ recommendations:

  1. Continue to research and document all heritage resources and assets.
  2. Update the inventory of all the buildings and structures within the historic zone of the City of Charlestown. Include the places of worship / churches in the inventory.
  3. Activate the Commission that guides the purpose and mission of the National Cultural Environmental Protection Act –NCEPA as the NCEMA (the NCEPA’s intended replacement) is purely an environmental Act and does not provide for protection of Historic Charlestown or any of its historical resources and assets.
  4. Define and declare the surrounding buffer zone and protected area of Charlestown, prepare the corresponding Action Plan and define and enforce building and conservation regulations. Proceed with the designation of Historic Charlestown as a protected area.
  5. The Director of Physical Planning should proceed with the finalization of a Physical Plan for Nevis for final approval by the Nevis Island Assembly.
  6. Operationalise the Nevis Heritage and Conservation Trust Ordinance, upon modification for the management of the Nevis cultural heritage.
  7. Develop a master development plan in which the protected area, Historic Charlestown, is included.
  8. Strengthen and nurture the Nevis Department of Physical Planning so that it has the conservation professionals necessary to carry out all their duties and provide for all legal instruments and regulations, that respond to internationally accepted standards, necessary to ensure proper enforcement before the cultural heritage of the island continues to lose authenticity and integrity, or even disappears.
  9. Undertake capacity building for the staff of government institutions in the identification, protection, conservation and management of cultural heritage properties/sites.
  10. Identify the plantations and fortifications that have acceptable levels of integrity and authenticity and are worthy of protection and conservation. Define and declare the protected areas and surrounding buffer zones and enforce conservation regulations.
  11. Treat ruins of plantations as archaeological sites, when appropriate, undertake emergency, stabilization and conservation interventions and avoid reconstructions.
  12. Convene the owners/religious groups of the churches to discuss their needs and define guidelines for intervention in historic religious structures (churches, schools, other structures).
  13. Undertake conservation of the gravestones at the historic churches’ cemeteries and at the Jewish Cemetery, and undertake maintenance at the Jew’s Walk and conservation measures at the synagogue building.
  14. Review with the Methodist Church authorities its current renovation project, in order to amend it in such a way that it will not pose adverse and irreversible impacts on its authenticity and integrity.
  15. Investigate the resistance, liberation and emancipation processes of the Slave Route and individual and groups of enslaved people, as well as their relation with religious groups in particular the Methodist Church.
  16. Link the Slave Market to the island-wide occupation and plantation system to obtain a complete view of the slave trade and slavery system.
  17. Develop a master, conservation and interpretation plan that recognizes Fort Charles as an archaeological site. Identify emergency stabilization and conservation actions at the seaside where important erosion is taking place that threatens that side of the fort. Restore the integrity of its surroundings by removing the abandoned buildings.
  18. Consider the Bath complex as one unity including the Bath Hotel, the Bath House, Bath Spring and connecting and surrounding landscaped area and prepare a survey of constructive and landscape elements. Develop a special master and management plan that maintains the bath function and ensures an appropriate use of the Bath Hotel.
  19. Identify the fortifications that have acceptable levels of integrity and authenticity and are worthy of protection and conservation. Define and declare them protected areas and surrounding buffer zones, prepare management plans and define and enforce conservation.
  20. Develop a master, conservation and interpretation plan that recognizes Fort Charles as an archaeological site. Identify emergency stabilization and conservation actions at the seaside where important erosion is taking place that threatens that side of the fort. Restore the integrity of its surroundings by removing the abandoned buildings.
  21. Develop educational programmes for schools and the public in general.
  22. Consider establishing an interpretation centre that informs of the history and diversity of the heritage of the island and expand the interpretative signs at the sites around the island.

Our Committee is presently continuing with the survey/inventory of Government owned buildings in Charlestown while we await instructions from the NIA.

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