Algeria/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Decision 67-281, dated 20 December, 1967, which pertained to the excavation and protection of archeological and natural sites, represented the first codified political effort to preserve tangible heritage in Algeria. The decision was based on the broad outlines of old legal texts left by France; it remained in force until 1998. During the 30 years of its existence, this decision was unable to create a realistic political foundation for heritage.

The inefficient law, incapable of addressing Algeria’s new challenges, was replaced in 1998 by Law 98-04. The key element in Law 98-04 is the concept of "intangible heritage", which had previously been neglected. Indeed, the country's intangible heritage—particularly language—was never a priority for the authorities, and until very recently the Berber language (Tamazight) went formally unrecognized. In bringing cultural concepts closer to mind and directly addressing issues of heritage and representation, the 1998 law represented a real cultural revolution and marked the beginning of a genuine political vision of Algeria's heritage.

Today, the Ministry of Culture is the main employer in the field of cultural heritage and it often coordinates heritage protection activities with the ministries of Interior, National Defense and Finance. The Ministry of Culture manages 11 museums, five offices assigned to protect tangible heritage (Hagar National Park, M’zab Valley Protection and Promotion Office, Tassili National Park Office and the National Office for Management and Investment of Protected Cultural Wealth), and four centers dedicated for heritage (National Center for Pre-Historic Research, Anthropology and History, National Center for Manuscripts, Arts and Culture Center "Palais des Rais" and the National Center for Archeological Research).

Since 2003, the MOC doubled the number of archeological sites categorized as national heritage sites. This categorization protects sites from any urban encroachment and gives them restoration and maintenance priority. More than 390 sites and monuments have been categorized as national heritage sites, mostly during the past decade. Since 2000, more than 20 sites and monuments have been deemed national heritage sites each year, and Algeria has named April “Heritage Month”. The country has six sites categorized by UNESCO as world heritage sites: Casbah of Algiers, Oued Mizab, National Park of Tassili, Qalaa Bani Hamaad, Jamila and Timgad.

There are a number of local unions that carry out various activities to protect the country's physical and intangible heritage, including Bel Horizon Union in Oran, which exerts notable effort to protect and rehabilitate Oran historical heritage, and Ahaggar Friends Union, which organizes Tin Hinan International Festival—a celebration of Tuareg heritage—every year in southern Algeria.

Chapter published: 03-05-2013