The World Heritage Convention: A UK Perspective
Henry Owen-John, Historic England
28 April, 17:30 – 18:30
University of Birmingham, Room TBC
Free event, all welcome
Book your free place: www.worldheritagetalk.eventbrite.co.uk
Henry Owen John, Head of International Advice for Historic England will look back to the origins of UNESCO and the introduction of cultural conventions, particularly the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Since 1972 definitions of heritage have expanded to become much broader and inclusive, yet World Heritage Sites, by their very nature are places that are unique or exceptional in global terms. This divergence poses a number of challenges. The criteria for achieving Outstanding Universal Value, the concept that is at the core of the Convention, have been set by experts and nominations for WHS status are led by specialists so how best can inclusive approaches to world heritage, in which often diverse communities can participate, be developed? And of what relevance is world heritage to the wider communities beyond the 29 WHSs in the UK and its overseas territories?
The World Heritage List is dominated by relatively prosperous countries with longstanding systems for the identification and protection of cultural and natural heritage. How can a more balanced and credible List be developed when so many countries have an understandably limited capacity to develop successful nominations? And, with 192 countries, often with very different approaches to heritage management, that are party to the Convention, the UK can sometimes find itself at odds with the broad consensus view about how best to manage and protect WHSs. In particular the concept of “constructive conservation” can clash with less flexible approaches to protection.
In all these circumstances how best can the UK seek to ensure that world heritage and the ethos of UNESCO are, and are seen to be, forces that can deliver social and economic as well as environmental benefit?