The World Heritage Convention sets out the responsibilities of the States Parties to identify, protect and manage natural and cultural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). While appropriate conditions for proper protection are nearly always generated at State level, most of the obligations associated with World Heritage inscriptions are usually met at the level of specific sites and this is best achieved with the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. Their knowledge of the Convention and their understanding of the World Heritage system has a significant impact on the protection of OUV.
Within each group of stakeholders, a single manager often emerges as the key responsibility holder who oversees and leads site-specific managerial decision-making and who, for the purposes of this background note, we will call World Heritage 'site managers'. Depending on the type of heritage at stake, they can come from very different realities – the public or private sector, heritage or non-heritage organisations, etc. It is often they who play the most crucial role in ensuring the Convention is implemented. They reconcile the expectations and requirements of the international heritage community with the needs and potential of the specific heritage with which they are involved.
The protection of OUV and its State of Conservation is monitored by the World Heritage Committee, supported by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN), through processes known as 'Periodic Reporting' and 'Reactive Monitoring'. The Reactive Monitoring process involves the collection of data from State Parties, Reactive Monitoring Missions and the drafting of State of Conservation reports (SOC) by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies. These drafts are discussed at the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee and the decisions which are adopted are then sent to State Parties for implementation. Responsibility for carrying out these requests lies primarily with the 'site managers' mentioned above. Too often these are managers who have worked without direct involvement in the designing of procedures and related recommendations. The recommendations then land on their desks and, in the absence of a consolidated understanding of the entire decision-making process, site managers are not empowered to act upon them effectively or help other stakeholders engage in the World Heritage processes to this same end.
Considering the World Heritage List includes over 1000 sites and a global territory of over 276 million hectares under its protection, increased understanding of the World Heritage decision-making process among site managers becomes crucial in order to achieve more effective protection of OUV. It allows the Convention to fulfil its potential as a tool and catalyst for World Heritage protection and heritage protection in general. At the same time, future improvements to the World Heritage decision-making procedures must build on and respond to greater engagement of those dealing with World Heritage on a day-to-day basis.
Stronger bridges should be built between the procedural core of the World Heritage system and its outer segments – those in the field whose ongoing work to safeguard OUV constitute the real expression of the Convention. It is in this context that the State Party of Poland, as a host of the 41st World Heritage Committee Session, proposes a World Heritage Site Managers Forum to unite representatives from World Heritage properties with those at the heart of World Heritage procedures.
The Forum is designed for a maximum of 100 participants selected from World Heritage Sites for which a State of Conservation (SOC) report has been prepared and presented for decision making at 41st Session of the World Heritage Committee. Participants from natural, cultural and mixed sites will be selected. Participants should be able to demonstrate their involvement in ongoing management activities of the World Heritage Properties that they represent. Applications will come through permanent delegations to UNESCO and the State Parties will be requested to submit up to three applications.
The working language of the Forum will be English.
Travel, Accommodation and Living Expenses
Participants will be responsible for their round trip travel costs to and from Poland and their living expenses. Candidates are strongly encouraged to seek financial support from sources such as governmental institutions, employers and funding agencies.
World Heritage Site Managers Forum
© Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa / Bartek Banaszak