Speech – Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović – 41st session of the World Heritage Committee

10 July 2017, Krakow
Item 7 (closing of the item) of the Agenda

Brief intervention by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of EUROPA NOSTRA

Following the side-event “For a Structured Dialogue with Civil Society on World Heritage Matters”
organised jointly by Europa Nostra and the National Heritage Board of Poland on 5 July in Krakow

Mr Chair,
Distinguished representatives of the State Parties,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,

We are grateful for the opportunity to address the plenary session of the World Heritage Committee on behalf of Europa Nostra, a pan-European organisation which has a membership of 250 NGOs and a network of 150 associate organisations. With over 50 years of experience, we have become the Voice of Civil Society committed to Cultural Heritage in Europe. We are however confident that our brief intervention will also echo the views of so many colleagues who work for heritage all over the globe with great competence, dedication and passion at various levels of governance: local, national and international.

We first wish to express our special thanks to you, Mr Chair: you have kept your promise! Here, in Krakow, a very large number of NGOs from all over the world could take the floor to contribute to discussions on the State of Conservation Reports. We wish to commend this most welcome development and wish to encourage your successors to continue along the same path.

We also wish to thank the host country Poland, through its National Heritage Board for their vital support for the organisation, jointly with Europa Nostra, on 5 July of a side-event entitled “For a structured dialogue with civil society”. This “Krakow initiative” also received full support from UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova whom we had the pleasure of meeting last Monday.

We are glad to report to you that apart from NGOs our side-event was attended by different stakeholders: State Parties, the Organisation of World Heritage Cities, the Advisory Bodies and, last but not last, by the World Heritage Centre represented by its Director, Dr Mechtild Rossler.

We are now grateful for this opportunity to convey to the World Heritage Committee the key messages which have been identified before, during and after this side event on the basis of numerous conversations and consultations with various partners concerned, including State Parties and Advisory Bodies.

First of all, we wish to acknowledge that a lot has been done to involve civil society at various levels: site managers, historic cities, State Parties, the Advisory Bodies, the World Heritage Centre and increasingly also at the level of the World Heritage Committee. But so much more could be done to ensure that the dialogue with civil society becomes more structured, more regular and thus more effective. WHY? Because this would contribute to further strengthening the good governance, the credibility and the effectiveness of the World Heritage Convention.

Secondly, we all seem to agree that this Convention and its Operational Guidelines give ample space for the building of such a structured dialogue.
But we also wish to acknowledge some recent wider developments which are relevant in this context:

* Let us, first of all, mention the recent World Heritage Policy Document on Sustainable Development, adopted by the 20th UNESCO General Assembly of States Parties in 2015.

* Let us also mention the relevance of the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and especially SDG 16 for “promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” and SDG 17 for “the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development”, beside SDG11.4 for “protecting and safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage” to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

* Let us finally refer to the human-rights approach to cultural heritage developed under the UN auspices, through the work of UN Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights.

All these wider developments stress the vital importance of citizen participation, and full involvement of local communities in decision-making with regard to their cultural and natural heritage. Let me add that more recently, at our Congress held in Turku in Finland, Europa Nostra and its country representation Europa Nostra Finland adopted a “Turku Manifesto – Participation Counts for Heritage”.

We also wish to acknowledge the organisation – for the last 5 years – of an NGO Forum, prior to the meeting of the World Heritage Committee, to discuss specific World Heritage cases and explore ways to strengthen the voice of civil society during the meetings of the World Heritage Committee.

To achieve a more structured dialogue with civil society, further efforts are indeed needed on all sides. We are fully aware that the World Heritage Committee and its Secretariat cannot deal efficiently with hundreds of NGOs. Therefore we, the heritage NGOs, have to organise ourselves better in order to provide a credible and manageable platform and partner for dialogue.

The various international non-governmental organisations which operate at a global or regional level – like is the case of Europa Nostra – seek to contribute to this goal. We, NGOs working in the field of cultural heritage, can learn a lot from the more advanced level of organisation and resources demonstrated by our colleagues working in the field of nature conservation, with a key role played by IUCN. While commending the vital work carried out by our colleagues from ICOMOS and ICCROM, we in particular look forward to discussing with those two Advisory Bodies best ways to ensure a more systematic and effective input from civil society organisations with regard to cultural heritage sites which figure on the World Heritage List.

To end, let me stress that we stand ready to pursue this “Krakow initiative” by coordinating an informal working group composed of a limited but representative group of heritage NGOs and their networks, and with due participation of the representatives of the WH Committee, the WH Center and the Advisory Bodies. The aim of this Working Group would be to discuss and make some recommendations for a more structured dialogue with Civil Society on World Heritage matters.
We believe that time is ripe to have a discussion on this subject at the next year’s meeting of the WH Committee. We therefore suggest to this Committee and its Secretariat to find an adequate place in the agenda of the 42nd session of the Committee for this important discussion.

Mr Chair, We very much hope that the World Heritage Committee will endorse and participate in this initiative!

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