50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility – Conflict & Reconciliation

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethopia); Amphitheatre of El Jem (Tunesia); Galápagos Islands (Ecuador); Historic Centre of Kraków (Poland); Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethopia); Amphitheatre of El Jem (Tunesia); Galápagos Islands (Ecuador); Historic Centre of Kraków (Poland); Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)


The project "50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility - Conflict & Reconciliation" honoured the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention by publishing a book and presenting it at an international conference. The book reflects on the past and the future of World Heritage, taking into account the values of responsibility, reconciliation and sustainability. With 61 authors from 28 countries, it also represents the global character of the Convention. The book presentation took place on 4th of November 2022 as a hybrid event at the Federal Foreign Office.

Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre presenting at the conference in the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin (photographer: Jayakrishna Bandla).

The Round Table „Sharing New Visions“ (photographer: Jayakrishna Bandla).

The Springer publication and the conference programme.

Dr. Birgitta Ringbeck (former Head of World Heritage Coordinating Body of the Federal Foreign Office) hands over the book to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azouley, in the presence of Dr. Mechtild Rössler (former director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre).

Project Implementation

The project was carried out in 4 stages: (1) digital Think Tanks, (2) a digital expert-conference, (3) the publication of the book in print and Open-Access format and (4) the book launch in a hybrid conference.

1. Digital Think Tanks

In March 2021, six Think Tanks were held based on analyses of current and future conflict areas for World Heritage. Taking into account the goals of the 2030 Agenda, these Think Tanks included the conflict areas themselves as well as reflections on possible conflict reconciliation and resolution strategies. The following conflict areas were defined:

    1. Global Governance
    2. Urban Transformation
    3. War and Terrorism
    4. Climate Change
    5. Technological Change
    6. Commodification of Heritage

In these Think Tanks, 52 papers were presented and discussed, which addressed the identified conflict areas, proposed solution strategies and referred to the SDGs and the categories of responsibility, reconciliation and sustainability.

Abstracts of the presentations and discussions as well as further information on the individual think tanks are published on the separate project website.

2. Digital Expert Conference (Kick-Off Conference) (June 2021)

The Think Tanks provided the basis for the two-day conference in June 2021, where the conflict areas and solution strategies were concretely defined and developed. The aim of this expert conference was to identify contributions for the book, which was published both in print and in Open-Access format at the end of 2022. In addition to 35 presentations on the six conflict areas, including keynotes by the coordinating experts, the conference consisted of four keynotes presented by Dr. Birgitta Ringbeck (Federal Foreign Office), Prof. Dr. Marie-Theres Albert (IHS) and Constanze Fuhrman (DBU). The history of the World Heritage Convention and the central categories of responsibility, reconciliation and sustainability were addressed in the keynotes and actively discussed in a roundtable discussion with young professionals and representatives of five organisations.

The conference programme as well as the short-CVs of all those who participated can be found here. The roundtable discussion held at the conference is also available to watch on the IHS-YouTube channel.

3. Publication of the Book in Print and Open-Access Format

The book "50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility - Conflict & Reconciliation" was published in October 2022. The Open-Access procedure allows the publication to be downloaded worldwide at any time free of charge. Within only one week of publication, the book was downloaded 16,000 times. Within two months, by December 2022, the book was downloaded over 70,000 times.

For more information on the publication, see "Project results: the publication".

4. Book Launch in a Hybrid Conference (November 2022)

The book launch took place both digitally and in person at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on 4th of November 2022. It consisted of presentations by 17 speakers, two round tables, questions from the audience on site and online, a reception and a guided tour of the World Heritage Site "Museum Island", the latter forming the thematic conclusion of the day. As the event was also designed as a book launch, the conflict areas defined in 2021 as well as the sustainable goals were presented and discussed. Due to the Russian war against Ukraine, the conference programme was also expanded to include this topic. The theme of civil society formed an important focus through which the past 50 years of the World Heritage Convention as well as the present and the future of the Convention and World Heritage were reflected upon. The full programme is available here.

For more information on the book launch, see "Project outcomes: the book launch and conference".

Project Result: The Publication

Based on the results of the Think Tanks and the expert conference, the book contains contributions from 61 authors from 28 countries. It reflects on the most successful convention for the protection of our heritage, the World Heritage Convention. For the first time, the diverse views of the experts from the politically, economically, socially and culturally diverse positioned member countries is considered, both in terms of content and quantity. The authors started from the paradigm that heritage forms identity and that the destruction of heritage destroys identity. People and societies are therefore responsible for the sustainable protection of their heritage. As the destruction of heritage is multidimensional, so is the responsibility that people and societies must take for their heritage.

The authors selected for the book are established scholars and experts, young academics and other professionals and experts. Eight people belong to the network of current and former UNESCO chairs. Furthermore, representatives of important international institutions such as IUCN, World Heritage Watch (WHW) or the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), were involved. The quality of the publication was supported by peer reviewers consisting of 28 experts from 11 countries. Some are part of the editorial board of the Heritage Studies series and others are further international experts. They were selected from the IHS network to cover the diversity of topics in the six conflict areas described above.

In addition to the quality and diversity of the authors and reviewers, the success of the book is reflected in the number of downloads of the digital version. Thanks to the worldwide publicity of the project and the publication by the IHS, the mobilisation of all authors, editors, reviewers and the entire personal, professional, and institutional network of the Institute Heritage Studies, the book has been downloaded 73,000 times as of mid-December 2022.

The book can be downloaded in Open-Access format or ordered in print format here: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-031-05660-4

Project Result: The Book Launch and Conference (November 2022)

The book launch took place as an international conference on 4th of November 2022 at the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin. It was a hybrid conference that allowed for both face-to-face and online participation. 98 people of maximum 100 people physically participated in the conference, including five ambassadors and a large number of key stakeholders from the World Heritage sector. In addition to several international institutions and representatives of ministries, academics from about 15 universities were likewise present. 439 people from over 85 countries registered to participate online.

The conference programme is available here.

The conference was recorded and uploaded (unedited) on the YouTube channel of the IHS:

  • Video 1: Welcome Speeches and introduction by Dr. Ping Kong (Heritage &Education), Prof. Dr. Marie-Theres Albert (IHS), Ralf Beste (AA)
  • Video 2: Speech by Lazare Eloundou Assomo (Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre)
  • Video 3: Keynote by Dr. Birgitta Ringbeck (AA)
  • Video 4: Presentation by Joseph King, Senior Director, Office of the Director-General, ICCROM
  • Video 5: Visions from the Civil Society – Prof. Dr. Friedrich Schipper, Dr. Christina Cameron, Uli Gräbener, Constanze Fuhrmann, Khrystyna Ahner, and Dr. Matthias Ripp
  • Video 6: Presentation by Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace, President of Blue Shield International
  • Video 7: Ways Out – Conflicts and Conflict-solving Strategies Adam Markham and Questions from the Audience
  • Video 8: Round Table – Sharing New Visions – The Future of the World Heritage Convention – Dr. Roland Bernecker, Dr. Mechtild Rössler, Dr. Birgitta Ringbeck, Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Joseph King, Elisabeth Korinth, Juan Carlos Barrientos Garcia, Questions from the Audience, and a summay by Prof. Dr. Marie-Theres Albert




Photographer: Jayakrishna Bandla

This project was in cooperation with and funded by the Federal Foreign Office