On 15 October 2021, the UNESCO/China Youth Development Foundation Mercedes-Benz Star Fund “Conservation and Management of World Heritage Sites in China” meeting took place in Songtao Miao Autonomous County, Guizhou Province, China. It reviewed the achievements of Phase III of the project and launched a new Phase IV.

Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Office in Beijing, expressed his gratitude for the 15-year collaboration and support of the China Youth Development Foundation Mercedes-Benz Star Fund and unveiled a plaque to commemorate this recognition.

Phase IV (2021-2024) strongly aligns with the three priorities in the 2021-2025 United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) for China: People and Prosperity, Planet, Partnerships. It also resonates with China’s strategic focus on rural revitalisation and several UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development targets. Furthermore, the project aims to demonstrate the enabling role of culture in promoting sustainable economic, social and environmental development in China and to consolidate good practices and case studies that could be shared and adapted on an international scale.

The meeting was also an opportunity for the UNESCO Office in Beijing to launch the China World Heritage Capacity Building Manuals publication series, realised with partner agencies, experts from China Academy of Cultural Heritage (CACH), Tsinghua University, Sun Yat-sen University and other project partners and site representatives. As a key output of Phase III, this publication series is built upon solid research by leading institutions and experts and years of experience accumulated from field-based pilot activities in collaboration with World Heritage sites, living heritage bearers and local communities. It will provide potential reference and guidance for the community of over 46,000 heritage conservation and management professionals in China and inspire new conversations and explorations on culture and sustainable development.

As part of the meeting, the “Cultural Heritage Conservation for Rural Revitalization Forum” saw experts from Guizhou Province Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Centre, Suzhou Art and Design Technology Institute, Sun Yat-sen University, Communication University of China, Beijing Normal University and International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation engaged in a constructive dialogue on the promotion of rural revitalisation through culture and heritage. Topics discussed included safeguarding living heritage, heritage education, creative communication, youth participation, indicator application, carbon neutrality, and green development.

The meeting was co-hosted by Songtao Miao Autonomous County Government, Suzhou Art and Design Technology Institute and Tongren Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport, Broadcasting and Tourism, and supported by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Department of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Guizhou Province Culture and Tourism Department, and Tongren Municipal People’s Government. It notably enabled a direct dialogue between project stakeholders, including policymakers, experts, site managers, living heritage bearers and the private sector. It thus laid a solid foundation for the implementation of Phase IV activities.