Youth4Heritage webinar shares firsthand best practices of how heritage can act as a bridge for peace and reconciliation

Europa Nostra hosted the online event #Youth4Heritage: Heritage as a bridge for peace and reconciliation on 16 November, in the frame of its network project European Cultural Heritage Agora co-funded by the European Union. The webinar drew over 200 participants from across Europe and the wider region to foster intergenerational dialogue, facilitate exchanges of experiences and share firsthand best practices of how heritage can act as a catalyst for peace and reconciliation. Europa Nostra collected recommendations and solutions related to the role of heritage as a catalyst for reconciliation from all the webinar participants and panellists.

In her opening remarks, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, drew on her own experiences of his subject, recalling that she saw firsthand how heritage being caught in the crossfire during the breakup of Yugoslavia during her youth, but also how heritage can also act as a bridge for peace and reconciliation.

ALIPH Director of Strategic Development, Bastien Varoutsikos, added to this, emphasising the importance of protecting the diversity of heritage and of operationalising it in our daily lives. Executive Director of the World Monuments Fund, Spain, Pablo Longoria seconded this inviting all participants to remember that heritage is universal.

Focusing on four regions with recent or ongoing histories of conflict – the Caucasus, Ukraine-Moldova, Western Balkans, and South East Mediterranean – the participants moved into four breakout rooms where they were invited to discuss recommendations for areas of improvement, and concrete solutions for implementing these recommendations. Regional experts were also on hand to share their experiences.

For the panel on the Caucasus, rapporteur Raúl Gómez Hernández recommended that stakeholders should work in a multidisciplinary way to understand the situation, and embrace modern technologies, like satellite imagery to monitor cultural heritage, with local communities. The rapporteur also imparted the recommendations that trust and open communication must be strengthened in conflict areas, for instance through outreach and awareness raising events with all levels of education. Finally, young people should be empowered through heritage, regardless of their nationality, through capacity building and training programmes.

Rapporteur Tetiana Golub shared the recommendations from the panel on Ukraine-Moldova, including the value of cultural heritage education for youth as it anchors individuals to their roots, and knowledge exchanges among professionals, both national and international, could facilitate this. Youth involvement in heritage preservation must also be prioritised to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next, but so too can the youth help their elders adapt to new technologies and forums for these exchanges must be established. And linking to this last point, the heritage sector must embrace digitalisation and the youth can take a lead role in this development.

Brixhita Deda put forward the recommendations from the panel on the Western Balkans, including the necessity to change the narrative we are accustomed to by organising story telling sessions, walking tours and workshops. Communities must also be given ownership of their heritage, and this must be a bottom-up approach, and here the youth must lead, and they can learn from their peers in other regions and counties via exchanges. And finally, heritage can be used as a common ground for opposing views, and the establishing of dialogue mechanisms between communities could facilitate this.

Finally, Angelos Kottas gave the recommendations from the panel on the South East Mediterranean, including the need to give minorities more visibility, via the use of technology to increase visibility and bring people together. Oral history can be used to tell personal stories and this can be facilitated by investing in language learning and cultural exchanges to encourage peace via education. Reflecting the diversity of communities, the multidisciplinary perspective of cultural heritage should be used to reach wider communities and interests. This can be achieved through youth-centred creative and multidisciplinary activities.

To conclude, representatives of Europa Nostra’s regional Hubs in Krakow, Nicosia and Athens, Joanna Sanetra-Szeliga, Androula Vassiliou and Amalia Zepou respectively, were invited to give their feedback and all welcomed the recommendations noting that they would serve to guide their own work in their respective regions.

Closing the session, Amra Hadzimuhamedovic, Director of the Centre for Cultural Heritage, International Forum Bosnia, echoed Europa Nostra’s Secretary General opening remarks, and reminded everyone that while heritage can and is used as an agent of war, it also has the power to heal.

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Recommendations and solutions related to the role of heritage as a catalyst for reconciliation

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