Cultural heritage and urban planning

“The road to self-reliance starts and ends in Afghanistan. Reaching the end of the road requires targeted investments in lower forms of capital to create revenue and the fiscal space for broader investments in our people, our knowledge and our culture. We must invest in what we naturally have, to see growth in areas we need to improve. We must look to our roots and draw from our history, culture, assets and capitals.”

Introduction to the ANPDF II 2021-2025


The Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF II) 2021 to 2025 highlights the role of Culture Heritage and Creative Economy for the development of the country.

Cultural tourism is seen as one of the assets in need of development.  In line with the Afghan development policies and the objectives of Afghanistan's National Program for Culture & Creative Economy (NPCE), the government of Italy, through the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), has been active in the conservation and enhancement of its rich cultural heritage since 2010, with interventions aimed at the conservation, protection and enhancement of cultural heritage in Bamiyan and Herat. The NPCE illustrates how the country should use its rich cultural heritage to build a national identity and sense of citizenship that rises above local enmities and perceived differences.

Particular attention is given to the Bamiyan Valley, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2003 as the "Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley", as well as in the List of World Heritage in Danger. Currently, AICS  Kabul manages a portfolio of 6,0 MEUR with three programs supporting the Afghan government, with initiatives executed by UNESCO and the University of Florence in its efforts to protect and manage the archaeological and cultural landscape of the area.

Recently, a fourth initiative, with a contribution of 2,4 MEUR, directly executed by the Ministry of Information and Culture, has been approved by Italy. This involves conservation activities within the Shahr I Zuhak Fortress and the implementation of an environmental and cultural impact assessment of the Bamiyan bypass, an infrastructure very much needed for the sustainable conservation and management of the area.

Other foreseen activities are research, conservation and enhancement of aspects of the intangible cultural heritage of the Valley.

All these programs use an integrated approach which, conceiving the site in its cultural, socio-economic and environmental context, a unicum, combines urban planning, direct conservation management and enhancement actions of the tangible and intangible assets of the Valley.

The ongoing programs include the formulation, approval and adoption of the Bamiyan Valley Management Plan, which will contribute to its removal from the World Heritage in Danger List, and the establishment of an Archaeological Park which will protect and enhance this unique site, promoting local employment, and encouraging economic growth by providing space and context for tourism-related industries. Italy is presently also focusing, through UNESCO, on the preservation and sustainable use of the remains of the ancient city of Shahr e Gholghola.

The project, implemented by the University of Florence, "Revitalize the Informal Neighborhoods and Location of Population Flows in Bamiyan and Herat", intends to provide technical support to the Municipality of Bamiyan and Herat to draw up the Urban Upgrading Plans of Zargaran and Gozargah and, among other activities,  to carry out a pilot social housing project that facilitates the relocation of the inhabitants of Zargaran, in the Bamiyan Valley, currently settled in areas subject to restrictions because of the proximity of  World Heritage Sites.

All the projects are strengthening local and national awareness by means of public services, offering accessible information about the historical and cultural significance of the Bamiyan sites. AICS also see these projects as means of improving the standards of Afghan institutions and staff through training and technical assistance, as well as a chance for job-creation and local development through sustainable tourism.