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The First South East Europe World Heritage Youth Forum, held 21-26 May 2011 in Porec, Croatia (from May 21 to 23), in Skocjan Cave and Lipika, Slovenia (from May 24 to 26), was opened on May 22, 2011 in Porec, Croatia by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, with the Croatian Minister of Culture, Jasen Mesic and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia, Stojan Pelko. In her speech, Ms Bokova said: "I am convinced that youth heritage education is the way to prepare for the future. It is the best way to safeguard and to promote cultural diversity on the basis of respect and dialogue. It is one of the strongest ways to ensure that heritage unites and that cultures do not become exclusive." She ended by stressing the role of educators: "You are helping to transmit values and to translate these into practice."
Apart form a Regional World Heritage Youth Forum (the first European World Heritage Youth Forum) which took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1996, the young people in this region have not benefited from any exchange which would encourage them to widen their horizons, learn about other cultures in the region and get involved in World Heritage preservation and promotion.
Some parts of the South-East Europe region have been affected by conflicts and some heritage sites, both those inscribed on the World Heritage List and those of national significance, have been the targets of hostilities, often leading to their partial or total destruction. During this period, several World Heritage sites were included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and then removed from it after successful restoration efforts.
After decades of conflict in the region, new sites were included on the World Heritage List, illustrating progress made with conservation and management, and witnessing to a general rise in the awareness of the importance of heritage. Time was then ripe to address the youth and the educators in the South-East Europe to make them aware of their specific role in World Heritage preservation, while using World Heritage as a common denominator and unifier. The role of education in this context is of primary importance.
The Forum was organised within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme. It was organised by the UNESCO National Commissions of Slovenia and Croatia and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), in close collaboration with UNESCO's Associated Schools Project (ASPnet) and the UNESCO Venice Office.
The event gathered fifty-eight participants, of which thirty-one young students aged 13 to 18 and twelve teachers/educators from eleven countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia and observers from Switzerland, Spain and United Arab Emirates
In the short term:
- To establish links between schools, students and teachers in the participating countries based on cooperation on World Heritage preservation issues.
- To provide students with basic skills for preservation of World Heritage sites.
- To provide training to educators from the participating countries on the local and global significance of World Heritage and the rationale for its inclusion in the school curricula.
In the medium and long term:
- To raise awareness among young people and the issues of preservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage.
- To introduce a cross-cultural perspective to educators and students.
- To enable the educators to develop and implement strategies that allow students to act in order to protect cultural and natural sites in their countries as well as in the wider world.
- To introduce World Heritage Education into school curricula.
- To increase mutual understanding and trust in the region.
Theoretical and practical knowledge acquired
Heritage experts and UNESCO specialists gave inputs on the main themes of the Forum:
- The Convention
- The UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme.
- On the Ibero-American Youth Forum and the Patrimonito Joven Project of the Spanish Ministry of Culture
- The Stecci as an example of Transnational Heritage
- Linking Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage
- Presentation of the five strategic objectives of the World Heritage Committee
Workshops and concrete activities were held on World Heritage related issues. The students presented the projects related to cultural and natural heritage they were working on and developed creative communication on them. Activities including guided visits to the World Heritage sites of the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Porec, Croatia and of Skocjan Cave in Slovenia were also conducted.
These workshops included:
- A Workshop on Fresco-painting artwork
- A Workshop on mosaic artwork
- A Workshop on the Kit "World Heritage in Young Hands".
- A Group-work on the key words from the presentations and experts inputs following with each group presented the statements they formulated to capture their understanding of the terms: Cultural Heritage, Convention, Dialogue, Transnational, Tangible, Intangible, and Youth.
- A Workshop on the five strategic objectives of the World Heritage Committee using a wrap-up debate activity called World Café designed to foster dialogue and structured along the 5Cs. The aims of the World Café were to share and identify major concerns of interest by participants in the field of World Heritage. Divided into groups, the participants discussed on each of the 5Cs (Conservation, Capacity building, Credibility, Communication, Community), linked and built on each other's ideas as they moved between tables and discovered insights into the various issues. They were therefore meant to propose possible action at the local, national, regional and international levels.
The Forum's legacy: the recommendations of the participants
Considering that educators are faced with difficulties in promoting heritage (time limitations, restrictions, budget for extra activities, lack of staff and motivation for involvement), the teachers' working group on the World Heritage in Young Hand Kit recommended:
- Translation of the Kit and need for training on the use of the kit for teachers and headmasters;
- Ensuring motivation of both teachers and students by introducing rewards for best projects dealing with heritage protection;
- Creating a network among teachers and students;
- Promoting and supporting all achievements;
- Continued awareness-raising by UNESCO of the national authorities on the importance of World Heritage education.
The five round-tables on the 5Cs provided the following recommendations:
- Change young people's attitude towards conservation by involving them in interesting activities
- Warn on products harmful for the natural environment through pictures and short messages
- Experts, teachers, museum workers should make heritage become a magnet for young people by making it more attractive, cool and user-friendly
- Use existing media for capacity building, i.e. schools newspapers, social networks, sport events, establish heritage clubs and promote heritage preservation...
- Credibility of World Heritage is linked to issues such as authenticity, threats linked to accessibility and trust...
- Raise awareness and values about heritage and its value through the channels which are cool for young people , use their language, Facebook, social events for the whole class, filming movies (even cartoons), games, exhibitions, volunteering and music.
- It is important to receive it with all four senses because in this way it is easier to understand and accept it.
- A bridge of communications between UNESCO associations and all kind of communities in order to collapse the walls among different communities and other organisations and use their great potential.
- UNESCO should not only be a serious and formal authority but should be closer to different groups.
The participants also put forward the following overall recommendations:
- The network conceived at the first South-East Europe World Heritage Youth Forum requires specific tools in order to remain active between two youth forums. It was therefore recommended that the organisers of the next forum should take the responsibility of developing, launching, maintaining and moderating a web-based cooperation and networking platform (news, moderated discussion groups, blog, resources, background documents...). UNESCO was requested to consider the possibility to support the forum organisers in this networking task.
- Two you people should be invited to the upcoming General Conference Youth Forum to present the first South-East Europe World Heritage Youth Forum.
- A second South-East Europe World Heritage Youth Forum should be organised in 2012.
- Interregional cooperation should be maintained by inviting SEE countries to the next Ibero-American Youth Forum.