An official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) has called for the speedy promulgation of a law that aims to protect and conserve Qatar’s cultural heritage. According to QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) maintains a database of National Cultural Heritage Laws, where more than 2,700 laws of 188 member states are published.
“In addition, Qatar and 17 other Arab countries have ratified the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. There are 86 properties, representing the rich cultural and natural Arab heritage, which are inscribed on the World Heritage list,” Khatchadourian said in a paper titled ‘Does Qatar need a specific law to protect and preserve its cultural heritage?’
He said the conservation of heritage buildings comes with several key benefits, such as economic sustainability, development and promotion of heritage tourism, and conservation and restoration. Khatchadourian said the enhancement of existing neighbourhoods and infrastructure, as well as various industries, such as construction firms and product manufacturers also benefit from heritage conservation.
“Conserving the ‘Qatari built heritage’ should be an integral part of the urban planning and development in Qatar. Qatar may be a country with very limited land space, but that does not stop it from retaining the beauty, nostalgia and culture that lies within the walls of the heritage buildings. Finally, conservation and restoration of heritage buildings are the ultimate forms of recycling,” he explained.
Khatchadourian further noted that the development and promotion of heritage tourism “are often rooted by historic buildings”, which he described as “powerful and tangible connections to our past are the ways in which people today come in touch with the past”. “Heritage buildings are also increasingly accepted as important venues linking a new generation with an older one, and thus as places to be used for education and citizenship.
“Revitalising old neighbourhoods – the buildings and the landscape – ensures that our quality of life is improved, and that community cohesion is maintained. These intriguing and tangible connections to the past spurs interest for tourists to soak in its distinct ambience and this alone helps attract business,” Khatchadourian pointed out.
He continued, “Conservation is not a mere preservation of a façade or freezing a building in time. By favouring the restoration of old buildings, the ambiance, character and a living piece of Qatar’s history are preserved. Most importantly, they also add variety and spark visual interest within Doha.”
On special legal provisions to conserve archaeological sites, Khatchadourian said to conserve archaeological sites and preserve their environments and landscapes, the national laws give the competent authorities, the power to draft plans for preservation of archaeological sites, to catalogue, trace, classify, designate or re-classify the sites as special reserved land or zones.
“Also, if a possible archaeological site is discovered in the course of a construction project or other land development work, such construction or development work shall be immediately suspended, and the discovery shall be reported to the concerned authority,” he said.
On the conservation of natural landscapes and geoparks, he said: “Any alteration of or damage to the natural status of a natural reserve should be prohibited by law, imposing sanctions such as fines and imprisonment.
“Therefore, in order to preserve this heritage to the future generations, no one shall be allowed to enter the designated zones of the natural landscapes and geoparks without the permission of the competent authority.”
He added, “Another important provision of the law should regulate the management and conservation of monuments to include different tasks, such as a routine conservation and periodic restoration of the buildings; the establishment of a contingency plan for all the tangible elements, put in place specific measures anti-burglary, anti-disaster and insurance measures; and any other matters relevant to the management and conservation of monuments.”