Nature and culture are inseparably
intertwined. Our cultural identity is strongly influenced by the
natural environment in which it develops. That is why culture and
nature, and in particular the balance between the two, must be protected.
This is the most important objective of the Convention Concerning
the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was ratified
by UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since that time 175 countries have
signed the convention.
The United Nations has declared the year 2002 the year of cultural
heritage. The World Heritage Convention is also celebrating is 30th
anniversary. In honor of this event and with the support of the
Italian government, UNESCO is organizing an international
Congress that will take place in Venice from 14 to 16 November.
During the congress the last 30 years will be evaluated. But UNESCO
wants to use the Congress to formulate policy for getting more assistance
and financial support for managing the monuments from NGOs and in
the private and public sector, for example.
In October and November there will also be six international conferences
A virtual Congress “World
Heritage in the Digital Age” will link these six conferences.
How new media and technology can be used to help protect and maintain
world treasures will be investigated.
Successes will be celebrated, but the Congress in Venice must
also be used to draw up a critical balance sheet, according to a
statement made by Minja Yang, adjunct-director of the Centre for
World Legacies, as quoted in the French newspaper Le Monde. This
is why the Congress is being called “World Heritage 2002:
Shared Heritage, Common Responsibility”. Countries that sign
the treaty have the responsibility to preserve, maintain and protect
their heritage. According to Yang these countries do not keep these
agreements or are too late in doing so. This can be a question of
a lack of capacity to do so, when countries are faced with poverty,
war or natural disasters. However, there are many examples that
prove that better circumstances offer no guarantee that the world
legacies will be any better conserved. By doing too little to prevent
pollution, mass tourism and uncontrolled urban construction, many
countries contribute to the damage or loss of monuments and natural
Of the 730 locations that are now included on the
World Heritage List, 33 are on a special list: the “World
Heritage List in Danger”.
Actually the list began with saving the Abu Simbel temples in
Egypt, that were in a valley that would be flooded once the Aswan
Dam was constructed. There was worldwide concern for these monuments
and UNESCO set up an international campaign to save the temple by
having them relocated. This provided the incentive for drawing up
the treaty and set the example for several rescue campaigns, such
as Venice, Munjodaro in Pakistan and the Borobodur in Indonesia.
The focus is not limited to artistic or heroic monuments. Artifacts
that testify to history’s black days, such as Auschwitz in
Poland, the slave deportation island Gorée in Senegal and
the Memorial monuments in Hiroshima must also be preserved.
Since 1997 in addition to monuments UNESCO has also been protecting
vulnerable cultural media: the “Memory
of the World” list also contains manuscript, documents,
music and photographs.
According to Klaus Hüfner, Chairman of the German
UNESCO commission, the World Heritage Treaty can be the beginning
of a world-wide politics of culture. In fact, the monuments included
on the list no longer belong to the country in question, but have
become a collective heritage. UNESCO strives to realize cultural
equality that extends beyond national pride. “World Heritage
is the positive side of globalization” says Francesco Bandarin,
director of the Centre of World Heritage.
Journées européennes du patrimoine