Five young heritage professionals from around the world received UNESCO-Vocations Patrimoine fellowships to pursue post graduate research at University College Dublin (Ireland) and at the Brandenburg Technical University of Cottbus (Germany).

The aim of the fellowships is to help prepare site managers to handle the growing threats to which World Heritage sites - 851 sites inscribed around the world to date - are exposed, including environmental degradation, climate change, development and mass tourism. As part of their training, the recipients of this year's fellowships will conduct field work in, respectively, the Galapagos, southern Italy (Royal Palace of Caserta), the Alhambra in Spain, Georgia (the historic monuments of Mtskheta) and Zhoukoudian in China (site of the Peking Man).

The five two-year fellowships were awarded in a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters on 5 November. They aim to strengthen the professional skills of natural and cultural site managers. They are the result of a partnership between UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and the French non-governmental organization Vocations Patrimoine which is supported by the multinational groups AXA and MAZARS as well as the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

The fellowships were presented by the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, Françoise Rivière, representing the Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura; French Culture Minister Christine Albanel; the Vice President of Vocation Patrimoine, Béatrice de Foucauld, representing its President Yves Coppens; Patrick de Cambourg, Chairman of the Group Executive Board, MAZARS, and Claude Brunet, Member of the Management Board of the AXA Group.

"This groundbreaking public-private fellowship programme will, I am sure, mark an important step in the transfer of competencies and in the professionalization of World Heritage management teams" said the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO as she drew attention to the need for more resources to safeguard World Heritage sites.

The five fellows who will benefit from the programme are:

  1. Gonzalo Banda-Cruz (Ecuador) has worked in the biosphere reserve of Yasuni and in the Charles Darwin research centre of the Galapagos. In his second year of post graduate study he intends to conduct a comparative study of the management of protected areas of the Galapagos and the Channel Islands in the United States, with a view to contributing the management of the Ecuadorian site, the first property to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978. Last July, the site was also inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  2. Giuseppe Ciambrone (Italy) is a former Fulbright scholar with a background in architecture. He will pursue his research project at University College Dublin and examine how the World Heritage site of the 18th Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli and the San Leucio Complex can drive the sustainable economic development of its region. It is his intention to seek ways to link the property to four other World Heritage sites situated in the south of Italy with a view to constituting a network that will serve the region’s development.
  3. Kinley Gyeltshen (Bhutan) has acquired a long experience in heritage preservation working as head engineer at the conservation department of his country’s ministry of culture. He intends to draw on his time at Brandenburg to help his country develop a tentative heritage list. Bhutan which ratified the World Heritage Convention in 2001 does not have any properties on UNESCO’s World Heritage List to date. Preparing a tentative list should help pave the way for future inscriptions on the World List. His research will focus on the site of the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, China.
  4. Rusudan Mizikashvili (Georgia) has trained in heritage preservation at the University of Louvain in Belgium and now works in heritage preservation for the Georgian Ministry of Culture. She intends to use her fellowship to study in Dublin so as to draw recommendations for the improved management of Georgia’s World Heritage Sites, with the Historic Monuments of Mtskheta, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994, as her major case study, also drawing on the experiences of comparable sites in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
  5. Damoun Vahabi-Moghaddam (Iran) has a background in architecture, notably in the study of Islamic architecture, and has worked on the implementation of UNESCO’s cultural programmes in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. He will conduct his research at the Brandenburg Technical University of Cottbus where - based on his experience of the earthquake that devastated the Iranian World Heritage site of Bam - he intends to study risk prevention and mitigation in another World Heritage fortress, the Alhambra, with a view to contributing to the management plan of Bam.

During the ceremony, a sixth, exceptional fellowship was presented by the French ministry of Culture and Communication, Vocations Patrimoine, AXA and Mazars to a French student at University College Dublin, Sophie Eberhardt. This fellowship is to support the recent creation of a network of the French sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.