The UNESCO Young People's World Heritage Education Programme (WHE Programme) seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow's decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our heritage.
Launched in 1994, the WHE Programme provides young people with the necessary knowledge, skills, network and commitment to become involved in heritage protection from local to global levels. New pedagogical approaches are developed to mobilize young people to participate actively in the promotion of World Heritage.
Young people learn about World Heritage sites, about the history and traditions of their own and other cultures, about ecology and the importance of protecting biodiversity. They become aware of the threats facing the sites and learn how common international cooperation can help save heritage. Most importantly, they discover how they can contribute to heritage conservation and make themselves heard.
Jointly coordinated by the World Heritage Centre and UNESCO Associated Schools, the WHE Programme has generated many different projects and activities such as:
- Development and publication of innovative educational and informational materials, among them notably the 'World Heritage in Young Hands' an educational resource kit for secondary school teachers published in over 30 national language versions
- Development initiatives for multimedia educational resource material production, including the production of episodes of a cartoon series starring "Patrimonito", the young World Heritage helper
- Youth Forums and summer camps
- National sub-regional and regional training seminars for teachers and educators
- Skills development and training courses for young people
The WHE Programme is one of UNESCO's most successful flagship programmes for young people.
- Backdrop... a little history
- Support for activities
- To encourage young people to become involved in heritage conservation on a local as well as on a global level
- To promote awareness among young people of the importance of the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention and a better understanding of the interdependence of cultures amongst young people
- To develop new and effective educational approaches, methods and materials to introduce/reinforce World Heritage Education in the curricula in the vast majority of UNESCO Member States
- To create a new synergy among educators, heritage experts, environmental specialists, States Parties, development actors and other stakeholders in the promotion of World Heritage Education on a national and international level.
Backdrop ... a little history
The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention).
1. The States Parties to this Convention shall endeavor by all appropriate means and in particular by educational and information programmes, to strengthen appreciation and respect by their peoples of the cultural and natural heritage defined in Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.
2. They shall undertake to keep the public broadly informed of the dangers threatening this heritage and of the activities carried on in pursuance of this Convention.
Article 27 of the Convention has been largely overlooked and there was little or no education in support of World Heritage.
WHE was launched at the grassroots level in 1994 by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet) as a project entitled "Young People's Participation in World Heritage Preservation and Promotion".
Following achievements of the first two years (the pilot phase) the Project was adopted as a medium-term "Special Project" (1996-2001) by the UNESCO General Conference in November 1995. WHE work then focused on the production and piloting of a WHE Kit for teachers and holding of regional youth forums (the first phase).
Over the years, the initiative has continuously developed as one of UNESCO's most successful flagship programmes for young people.
Now in its second phase, the Programme seeks to reinforce the involvement of young people in World Heritage preservation, pursue efforts to mainstream World Heritage Education in school curricula through awareness raising and encourage communities and States Parties to participate in heritage preservation and intercultural learning.
The World Heritage in Young Hands Kit has been tested and adapted to national needs and introduced in over 130 Member States of UNESCO through close to 1000 UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet). A total of 51,900 copies have been printed and distributed. Through the WHC website the different versions of the Kit will gradually be made available online (free of charge). At a very conservative estimate, at least a million young students will be reached by all Kit versions.
About 18 international and regional youth forums have been held with an estimated 1560 young people participating. Nearly 1250 teachers and educators have been trained through nearly 40 seminars and workshops at national, sub-regional, regional and international level. Skills development training courses have been provided to over 200 young people, the latest consisting of training course on preventive and curative conservation for 35 young African students.
Support for activities
The generous financial contributions from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) from 1998-2001, and subsequently the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the year 2002-2003 and for 2004 have been instrumental in providing continuity in the project's activities in order to secure the current achievements. Support for the Project was received from the Dutch Government for 2001-2002, 2004 and 2006 while the Italian Government financed specific activities in 2004. The Project also benefits from the strong support it received at the 25th session of the World Heritage Committee in Helsinki in 2001 and from the financial help of the World Heritage Fund.