Speech – Prof. Jacek Purchla – Closing of the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee

Address by H.E. Professor Jacek PURCHLA,
Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee
41st session of the World Heritage Committee
– Closing of the session
Krakow, Poland – 12 July 2017


Dear Dr. Rössler,
Distinguished Members of the World Heritage Committee,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come to an end of our session in Kraków. We can all be exhausted by now, but I am certain that it was a successful marathon. We inscribed 21 new sites to the World Heritage List – 18 cultural and 3 natural. Discussions over particular items, which sometimes took hours to conclude, proved how multilayered and complex the heritage issues may be.

Two properties are first inscriptions of two African countries, namely Angola and Eritrea. Let us express to these States Parties our warm congratulations. I am certain that they will do their utmost to ensure that these sites will retain the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity, for which they have been inscribed.

The 41st session of the World Heritage Committee attracted enormous attention. It was attended by almost 2000 participants including the States Parties to the Convention, Observers from the civil society and NGOs, as well as 200 representatives of the press. It was widely covered by the media from all over the world.

I am very happy that the session articulated the significance of three major actors of heritage: the site managers, the civil society and the youth.

The Site Managers World Heritage Forum organised for the first time in Krakow offered a platform for heritage professionals to address issues implicated by inscriptions to the World Heritage List. Three days filled with presentations and discussions demonstrated that despite geographical distance and typological differences various heritage sites are incredibly close to each other.

This session was an important step to empower representatives of the civil society on the forum of the World Heritage Committee. The side event “For a structured dialogue with civil society” opened up the discussion among non-governmental organisations themselves and initiated the process of channeling their voice towards partnership with world heritage experts.

And finally youth. Youth which is our future. The competences of this year’s Young Professional World Heritage Forum were extremely high. Young experts from 32 countries proved that inscriptions to the World Heritage List will be in good hands – wise and thoughtful people caring for value and for the substance.

I hope that these topical discussions initiated in Krakow will be continued after this 41st session is over and that they will lead up to structural solutions beneficial for all Heritage Sites.

Another success of the Krakow session was establishment of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on World Heritage which will be a platform for involvement in the identification, conservation and management of World Heritage properties.

These past 10 days were intense, inspiring, enriching and constructive. We all tried to achieve our mission in the respect of, and for, the World Heritage Convention. We took our decisions in the best interest of the implementation of this almost universally ratified normative instrument, as well as in the best interest of the sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.
However, dear Colleagues, I must admit that I am concerned. I am concerned by the way politicisation within our assembly is taking over expertise and technical and scientific-based decisions that should be adopted in a spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding. This is a very serious matter that is endangering not only our work, but also the credibility of this Committee, and the credibility of the Convention, undermining the spirit and values it has been carved in.

Therefore, we should do our utmost to ensure that our debates, discussions and decisions are held and taken in a cooperative way and in transparent manner, and in full respect of the Operational Guidelines provisions.

Dear Friends,

I would like to repeat once again my sincere thanks to you all for your trust in me during my office as Chairperson. I am very grateful to all of you, my dear Colleagues, for your assistance and your support in my challenging task of chairing our daily sessions. A special thanks goes to the Vice-chairs, distinguished ambassadors of Portugal and the Republic of Korea, who kindly replaced me from time to time. Thank you Excellencies for your great support!

It was a pleasure for me working with you all Committee Members, Members of the Bureau, States Parties and Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN, towards the implementation of such a prestigious instrument as the World Heritage Convention.

I would like to express my deep appreciation for the continuous commitment of the Director-General of UNESCO, the Assistant Director-General for Culture, the Director of the World Heritage Centre, the Deputy-Director of the Heritage Division as well as all their devoted staff.

I am grateful to Dr. Mechtild Rössler for her professionalism in leading the session, for her openness to embrace voices coming from all actors of heritage, and for her true friendship. It was a privilege to work side by side.

I would like also to pay a special tribute to our Rapporteur Mr Mohamed Juma for his efficiency and reactivity in guiding us through the examination of amendments. Thank you very much, Sir, your talented assistance was greatly appreciated.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of Poland and to the City of Krakow for having invested considerable efforts in the preparation and holding of this 41st session. Thank you for having making this very session a success and a great experience!

Please allow me also to pay tribute to all behind the scene: interpreters, technicians, media-centre, volunteers and all other services.

The session has already become a memorable experience and symbolic event both for Krakow and Poland. The presence of 124 respected delegations for ten days made us the heritage capital of the world and confirmed that Krakow has been located at the crosswords of cultures and traditions.

I wish all of you a safe journey home and hope to see you back in Poland in the near future.

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