The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed on Tuesday a €2.4 million agreement with Al-Quds University aimed at the preservation of Palestinian cultural heritage in Jerusalem’s Old City, an EU press release said.The agreement was signed in the presence of Michael Köhler, director for Neighborhood at the European Commission’s DG DEVCO, and UNDP’s Special Representative Frode Mauring.
The ceremony also included the signing of a cooperation agreement between UNDP and Al Quds University Center to conduct historical research and organize workshops in relation to the targeted historical sites.
“The program will contribute to the development and protection of Palestinian cultural heritage in the old city of Jerusalem, in addition to the improvement of socioeconomic conditions of its citizens through quality housing and tourism services,” said the press release.
The program activities will include the rehabilitation and revitalization of Hammam al-Ayn and Hammam al-Shifa, al-Madrasa al-Kilaniyya and related housing units, and the development of a business management plan and training on the maintenance and management of rehabilitated sites.
“This is an ambitious project, with numerous stakeholders, and we praise UNDP’s coordination work that allows us to be here today,” said the EU Representative John Gatt-Rutter. “Once completed, the project will unravel huge potential for the population of the Old City in terms of heritage preservation but also job creation and touristic growth.”
Huda Imam, general director of Al Quds University Center, welcomed the guests and expressed her appreciation to the EU and UNDP for taking this initiative forward.
“This program is very important for Jerusalem. It will revitalize the city and create awareness for the community on the importance of cultural heritage and the preservation of our identity,” she said.
Local capacities in conservation, rehabilitation and management of historic buildings and sites will also be enhanced through the program. Short and medium term job opportunities will also be generated for young professionals in the fields of restoration, tourism and cultural management.
“The occupied Palestinian Territory is rich in cultural heritage. UNDP and its partners will spare no effort to preserve and protect this treasure,” said Mauring. “The program will have a long term impact that will benefit different segments of the society by providing job opportunities and sustainable income for local professionals,” he added.
Since 1997, UNDP’s Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People supported the tourism and culture sectors in the occupied Palestinian Territory through the restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage sites and improvement of touristic areas and networks.
UNDP is currently partnering with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities through a $34 million program aimed at rehabilitating public infrastructure for culture and tourism.
The program encompasses seven components, including development of site museums, water springs, and cultural landscape, with special emphasis on East Jerusalem, Gaza and Area C.
Through the work of civil society, and in coordination with the office of the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the EU supports actions in East Jerusalem in the fields of health and social welfare, housing, urban planning, legal aid, education, and economic development – including the promotion of the tourism and cultural sectors. Special attention is placed on youth, women and the disabled.