Workshop on World Heritage, Sustainable Development and Civil Society held in Brussels

On 29 March 2018, a workshop on World Heritage, Sustainable Development and Civil Society was held at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies in the framework of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and with the support of Europa Nostra, the European Cultural Foundation and the University of Kent.

This workshop followed the adoption of the UNESCO Policy on the ‘Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention’ in November 2015, which aims to ensure that the conservation and management of World Heritage properties are aligned with broader sustainable development objectives (environmental sustainability, inclusive social development, inclusive economic development as well as the fostering of peace and security). Various meetings had been held on how to operationalise this policy but this workshop was the first one which aimed to find innovative ways of involving civil society actors in the implementation process. The workshop was led by Dr. Sophia Labadi from the University of Kent, who took part in drafting the 2015 Policy.

The welcome speeches were made by Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, Academic Director of the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies, Ioana Tamas, Research and Development Officer at the European Cultural Foundation, and Piet Jaspaert, Vice-President of Europa Nostra.

Europa Nostra’s Vice-President highlighted the leading role that civil society should have in the implementation of this policy that provides an integrated approach to sustainable development. He also referred to the side event ‘For a Structured Dialogue with Civil Society on World Heritage Matters’, which was hosted by Europa Nostra and the National Board of Poland during the last session of the World Heritage Committee in Krakow in July 2017. The aim of this event was to discuss ways to enhance the quality and effectiveness of civil society involvement in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention as well as to better structure this dialogue – among others – through international and regional NGOs which express the views and concerns of civil society committed to the safeguard and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage.

With over 200 applications received following the call for participants, 40 civil society actors from all over the world were selected to participate in the workshop. The participants were divided into four working groups to discuss the four dimensions of Sustainable Development identified in the Policy and to make recommendations based on their experiences and fields of expertise. Visnja Kisic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra Serbia, and Goran Tomka, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy and Management, led the working group on fostering peace and security. The groups’ recommendations were later discussed and refined by the larger group.

“The workshop proved to be extremely productive and has resulted in an initial action plan for civil society’s participation in the implementation of the Policy on World Heritage and Sustainable Development which will be widely disseminated to civil society actors, international and academic organisations and heritage professionals. This workshop fits within a larger process which aims to promote progress within the United Nations 2030 Agenda,” stated Dr. Sophia Labadi.

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