Generally speaking, there is a very deep communication gap between decision makers and populations, rural or urban. The reports from the workshops were also unanimous in stating that unless the people were genuinely and continuously involved in the restoration of these beautiful parts of Yemeni cities, there would be very little chance of restoration being successful. In my mind this is now an established fact.

I would like to begin these concluding remarks by thanking the Prime Minister and the Government of the Yemen Arab Republic for the many kindnesses, courtesies and considerations that have been extended to us. We can all agree that this has been one of the most exciting, one of the most interesting and one of the most motivating seminars we have had. The success of the seminar is in large part due to the support and encouragement which the government has given us in enabling us to see truly exceptional buildings in various parts of this country.

Each of the numerous site visits we made highlighted the same problem which the workshops identified unanimously and which I have observed in other areas of the developing world. Generally speaking, there is a very deep communication gap between decision makers and populations, rural or urban. The reports from the workshops were also unanimous in stating that unless the people were genuinely and continuously involved in the restoration of these beautiful parts of Yemeni cities, there would be very little chance of restoration being successful. In my mind this is now an established fact.

The second issue which I retained from our deliberations is that the Third World is still facing an economic crisis and governments cannot treat conservation as a priority. As a result, conservation — the maintaining of cultural heritage — has to make economic sense. If it does not make economic sense, there is little chance for all of us who are concerned with the heritage of the Islamic world to be successful. These I think are two basic considerations for any progress that we wish to make.

However, it would be wrong to conclude by looking at problems only. There emerged in this seminar an idea of a pilot project for which Dr. al-Attar must be credited, having mentioned it first in his opening speech. He envisaged an institution, an organisation of some form, which could take upon itself a pilot project on urban design in the Islamic world. This project would involve the support of the country concerned and of international agencies.

We are just about in the sixth year of the life of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and at the end of every seminar I have faced the same question: how does the Award intend to continue to support actively the purposes which it has set for itself? I cannot commit myself to an answer immediately because this is not the sort of thing I would do without the support of the Steering Committee. But I think there may be a chance of putting together an international organisation which could build on the lessons of this seminar. Perhaps, this organisation would be a non-governmental one which would work with UNESCO and other agencies and try to become effective in mobilising people for looking after exceptional parts of these old cities. This role, I think, can best be played by a private sector organisation, a non-governmental body, and it could be very exciting.

I am convinced, as a result of this seminar, that while each urban area, each case is different, the basic problems are common to all areas. The two basic problems — that of closing the gap between people and decision-makers, and that of mobilising people in rendering programs economically viable — are relevant whether we are talking about Kairouan, whether we are talking about Fez, or whether we are talking about Sana’a.

I am convinced, as a result of this seminar, that while each urban area, each case is different, the basic problems are common to all areas. The two basic problems — that of closing the gap between people and decision-makers, and that of mobilising people in rendering programs economically viable — are relevant whether we are talking about Kairouan, whether we are talking about Fez, or whether we are talking about Sana’a. These two issues have to be resolved if historical sites and parts of these cities are to be preserved successfully. I think therefore that in concluding this seminar it would be fair to say that the government of Yemen, the hospitality which we have received at Sana’a and the participants in this seminar have all contributed to conceptualising what might be the beginning of a very exciting development in the years ahead and I wish to conclude by saying that the Award will reflect over this.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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