Remarks by Ambassador Robert Yamate – Ceremony for the Launching of the 2015-2016 Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Project

Prime Minister’s Palace Museum in Andafiavaratra|
Thursday, January 21, 2016

Honorable Minister,

Colleagues, and friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning for the launching of this project, the “Preservation of the 19th Century Prime Minister’s Palace Museum in Andafiavaratra.”

This project, unlike any other that the U.S. Embassy has ever undertaken in Madagascar, will serve to draw national and international attention to the unique role played by this palace in the history of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean region.

This project joins over 750 other projects that have been funded in over 120 countries through the State Department’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation since its creation in 2001.  The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation is a relatively new program, but it is already having a profound impact in the fields of preservation, conservation, archaeology, ethnography and historical research.

Initiatives such as this serve as demonstrations of the friendship and mutual respect between our two countries, and of our shared priority of preserving, respecting, and protecting the cultural heritage of our societies.  It is also further proof of our interest in aiding Madagascar in protecting its cultural heritage for future generations and for visitors from abroad.

Many past beneficiaries of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation grants have found that the international attention generated by its projects have led to publicity and further assistance.  Independently funded projects often develop from them.  Others have found that communities have been rejuvenated by the pride associated with these projects.

This project is part of an array of programming we have launched this year in the sector of cultural preservation and sustainable tourism.  In a few days, a delegation of Malagasy representatives from the cultural and tourism fields will travel to the U.S. to meet with conservation experts and tourism development professionals in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana, to share experiences and build relationships that we hope will assist Madagascar in the future.

And this project is just the most recent in a long line of Ambassadors Fund projects over the past several years.  These projects have included preserving historic textiles in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, preserving Indo-Arabian carved doors with the University of Mahajunga, and helping save the old city of Fianarantsoa.  We work hard to identify projects all over the country that might benefit from this project, and we are looking forward to submitting more proposals this year to the Department as well.

One personal reflection I would like to mention.  I have always felt it was a shame that the historical sites of Madagascar, be they here in Antananarivo, Toliara, or Taolognaro, Mahajunga or Manakara, or elsewhere on this great isle, are often overlooked by international tourists.  Madagascar is unquestionably blessed with some of the most unique and wondrous flora and fauna of any place in the world, but the history of Madagascar – as freighted with complexity and the occasional controversy as any country – is a huge part of what makes Madagascar what it is today.  If we can help to pass along more of Madagascar’s cultural uniqueness to visitors through the projects such as this, I would be very pleased indeed.

Once again, I would like to compliment the Minister and staff of the Ministry of Culture and Handicraft for their exceptional efforts to protect and preserve Madagascar’s national treasures.  We are truly proud to be partnering with you in this worthy endeavor.

Thank you.