Delegates to the 2014 World Heritage Youth Forum held in Doha from 4 to 15 June, made it clear they expect to play a much bigger role in safeguarding the world’s heritage, and proposed a range of projects aimed at getting young people more involved.
The Youth Forum has become an annual meeting held in conjunction with the session of the World Heritage Committee. This year’s Forum was organised by the State Party of Qatar with the support of the Qatar Museums and brought together 45 young people between the ages of 18 and 30, coming from 29 countries, mostly in the Arab region.
Their discussions explored the range of issues related to heritage and looked at ways for young people to contribute to its protection. Part of the Forum was run as a Youth Model of the World Heritage Committee to help them understand the processes involved and the different perspectives and positions that need to be taken into account by the Committee when making decisions on World Heritage properties. The young delegates also visited cultural sites in Qatar, and attended lectures and presentations on World Heritage topics, to further deepen their knowledge of the stakes involved.
Presenting their conclusions and proposals at the opening of the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee on 15 June, the Forum participants emphasized that youth-to-youth communication was key to engaging and informing young people in this area. As a first step towards this, they proposed the establishment of an Online Platform, to be managed, monitored and utilized by young people around the globe. The Platform would promote diverse activities around World Heritage sites, such as sharing of pictures, videos and essays in virtual forums, streamlining conferences and workshops, exchanging ideas, experiences and best practices for World Heritage.
To manage the Platform the Forum participants requested States Parties to support the establishment of “Youth Units” which would collaborate closely with UNESCO field offices. These Units would develop and promote youth capacity-building on World Heritage site management, provide international and trans-regional platforms and facilitate exchanges among young specialists from different professional environments, via academic seminars, on-site training and other community engagement projects to raise awareness about the need for sustainable management of World Heritage sites.
The youth delegates also suggested the creation of community youth cultural centers led by young people. These centers would aim to reinforce identity and generate more knowledge and skills on tangible and intangible values linked to World Heritage sites. They would also support the management system in place, with activities for example such as watching over heritage sites to prevent vandalism.
The creation of a corps of young ambassadors to bridge the gap between experts and local youth, and to disseminate heritage information via creative methods such as plays, workshops, story-telling, application development, was another proposition put forward by the Forum, along with the establishment of a Youth World Heritage Day.
All these initiatives will mobilize the young generation to contribute to sustainable development and the promotion of World Heritage values, they said.
“We are committed to use all our potential and energy in sharing with you the inspiring but challenging task of promoting and preserving our shared heritage,” they concluded.