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UNESCO: Monitoring Heritage Cities at Old University Building

It is my pleasure, as Mayor of Valletta, to welcome you to Malta's Capital, twenty years after the City was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

The City has come a long way and it is our duty to carry it along to future generations.

During the past twenty years unfortunately;
* Valletta has experienced an exodus of its people, who looked for more comfortable spaces which reflect the present needs.
* Traffic kept on congesting the city posing a threat to its monuments and to the infrustructure in general.
* The city also lacks the necessary government funds and private intervention or contribution is very slow.
* As a result the lack of maintenance of old buildings and a failure to understande their cultural and functional values increased the dangers of decay.
* Although we live in an era of Information Technology and advanced telephony and yet it is a shame to see that state majority owned telecommunications company, - Maltacom - has done little or nothing about the wiring problem in Valletta.

We have to build new lines of fortifications against these "new" threats of our city.

The setting up of the Valletta Rehabilitation Project some ten years ago was a step in the right direction by Central Government.

The concept of Local Government in Malta, though still very young, is proving to be a success story throughout the country. If one were to look back, local authorities have started to make the difference. More people are becoming aware of our cultural heritage, realizing perhaps that is one of our stongest National Resources from which Malta can also prosper.

After only five years of local governance, the City Government has gained its authority. It has established excellent relationships with the Rehabilitation Project and central government in general, stressed on the clenliness of the city which receives about 40,000 daily users and visitors, and is looking at sustainable alternatives to control traffic congestions and parking problems. Above all the city government is aiming to set up a Cultural Bond with the business community which appears to be interested in contributing towards the City and to participate in decision-making, this in the form of a Foundation.

The enjoyment of our heritage depends upon its conservation. World Heritage demonstrated that the craftsmanship, love and care of past civilizations were given to make their surroundings meaningful. This should never cease to fill us with wonder. The past can speak to us and help us realise where we are going in the future. (Sir Bernard Feilden)

I must not forget to mention Fort Saint Elmo which has acquired the title of one of the most endangered monuments by UNESCO recently.

Fort Saint Elmo shaped the fate of Valletta. During the Great Seige, even before Valletta came straight from the drawing board, Fort Sainty Elmo stood to defend its people, their land and a whole Christian identity. Neither did the air attack of the Second World War humble this magnificent peice of military engineering.

It is a pity that today St Elmo remains in most parts neglected, forgotten by all, practically unaccessable to the general public with little plans for immediate rehabilitation, and lacking serious or positive action.

Unfortunately all these circumstances are shaping the fate of Fort St. Elmo.Whereas the knights were concerned with safeguarding the shores of the peninsula, we must seriously be concerned with safeguarding our heritage.

We have to go back to our drawing boards, to sketch our new "defence" programmes this time, not against sea or air attacks but to save this monument, to save Valletta, to save a cultural heritage that belongs to all.

This is a great responsibility on us politicians, to believe in and to be sensitive to the principles and value of cultural heritage for present and future generations. It is a great responsibility on policy makers and on technical experts to intervene prudently and protect cleverly from serious threats on heritage sites.
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