Structured Dialogue with Civil Society discussed at GA of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention Paris

On the occasion of the 21st session of the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention held on 14-15 November at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, Professor Jacek Purchla, President of the Polish National Commission for UNESCO, delivered his report on the activities conducted and decisions taken by the World Heritage Committee, focusing on the input of the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee organised under his chairmanship last July in Krakow.

Professor Jacek Purchla, who is also Director of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow and a long-standing Council member of Europa Nostra, was very pleased to highlight that the session in Krakow accentuated the significance of three major actors for World Heritage: site managers, civil society and young people. He stressed that “this session represented an important step towards empowering representatives of civil society within the forum of the World Heritage Committee”. Professor Purchla pointed out that the side event “For a Structured Dialogue with Civil Society on World Heritage Matters”, which was organised by Europa Nostra together with the host country represented by the National Heritage Board of Poland, “opened up the discussion among non-governmental organisations and initiated the process of channeling their voices towards partnership and airing constructive proposals for future cooperation in the best interests of heritage conservation”. He also reminded the attendees that in the decision 41 COM 7, the Committee “encourages States Parties and civil society organisations to continue exploring possibilities for civil society to further contribute to enhanced conservation of heritage in situ and national levels, and provide relevant input into the heritage-related debate at the global level”.

Under the General Assembly’s agenda item 9 – The Future of the World Heritage Convention, the matter of civil society was raised with interventions by Sweden, Denmark, Jamaica, Serbia and Switzerland. The concluding address was made by Olivia de Willermin, Senior Advocacy Lead for Global Campaigns at WWF International, on behalf of the Network of Natural World Heritage and also on behalf of Europa Nostra, calling the newly elected Committee members to include civil society dialogue in the agenda of the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee, which will be hosted by Bahrain from 24 June to 4 July 2018. Mechtild Rössler, Director of Heritage Division & Director of the World Heritage Centre, stated that she would raise this matter with the host country to see if they could add it to the agenda.

The World Heritage Committee is composed of representatives from 21 of the 193 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention. During the 21st session, the General Assembly elected 12 new members to the World Heritage Committee: Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, China, Guatemala, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain and Uganda.

The current composition of the World Heritage Committee is therefore as follows: Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe.

As of July 2017 the total number of sites on the World Heritage List is 1073 (832 cultural, 206 natural and 35 mixed) located in 167 countries around the world and 54 properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The newly appointed Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay (France) took office on 15 November as the 11th UNESCO Director-General and second woman to occupy this position. “I now think of all the people I met in recent months, or had met in my various professional capacities, who have great expectations from UNESCO,” declared Ms Azoulay in her address. “I think of UNESCO’s mandate, which is strikingly modern. I think of all of you who are aware of the difficulties of the Organization but who know that it is irreplaceable, that it is essential, in facing current global challenges and who aspire to the unity and serenity necessary to let it exercise its mandate to best effect.”

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