Accepted paper:

World heritage for sustainable development: working outside of the world


Mike Robinson (University of Birmingham)
Ioanna Katapidi (University of Birmingham)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses shifting contexts of policy and practice in the relations between sustainable development and World Heritage.

Paper long abstract:

At the 2015 Bonn Meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (40 COM 5C), a new policy was adopted to recognise that a "sustainable development perspective" should be integrated into the processes of the World Heritage Convention. This followed in the wake of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, the successor of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. Far from being dismissed as institutional rhetoric, this emergent policy opens up new challenges and possibilities for World Heritage Sites and marks a major philosophical shift from seeing World Heritage as an end in itself, rooted in notions of Eurocentric intrinsic value, towards a more pragmatic view of World Heritage designation as a means to an end. It also attempts to link the work of UNESCO with the wider policy frames of the UN.

Drawing upon work conducted as part of an AHRC Global Challenges Grant, this paper examines how this 'new' meta-level discourse of UNESCO World Heritage policy filters down to member states and site level that opens up larger questions relating to the value of the UNESCO designatory process. Though in no way conclusive, we raise issues regarding communication, translation and governance that span across the developing and developed world. Within formalised frameworks of site management, our findings indicate the inevitable gap between policy and praxis but at the same time, outside of such frameworks, there exist examples of creative approaches to addressing development issues and lessons that can be exchanged between these two worlds.

panel O3
History and development: practicing the past in pursuit of 'progress'