The challenges facing heritage preservation as UNESCO celebrates the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention were the focus of the opening of the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee. The session started Sunday in St Petersburg and will continue until 6 July.
The Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, welcomed the participants pleading for the credibility of the World Heritage Convention. “We must keep in mind the indisputable reality that the outstanding universal value of World Heritage sites is based on local values, local experience and most importantly on local conservation efforts. In one word, local and indigenous peoples are the key actors who make this global heritage possible,” she said.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, for her part highlighted the growing challenges of preserving World Heritage sites in the face of growing pressures. “The credibility of the inscription process must be absolute at all stages, States Parties hold the primary responsibility in this regard,” stressed Irina Bokova.
The Director-General spoke of the “revolutionary idea” which made up the World Heritage Convention which “for 40 years has sketched out a new map of the world – a map of peace, a network for cultural exchanges that takes in close to 1,000 sites across the world.”
Recalling the principles of scientific excellence and impartiality in the process of inscribing new sites, Ms Bokova called on all involved “to act and think as visionaries to rejuvenate the World Heritage Convention and confront the challenges of the 21st century,” notably, those of sustainable development and peace-building.
The Culture Minister of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinsky, underscored the challenges faced by the destruction of traditional values that are embedded in the preservation of cultural heritage in the age of globalization, “the world is at once united and divided,” said the Culture Minister, emphasizing the importance of cultural heritage to foster exchange amongst peoples.
The opening ceremony took place in the presence of Alissandra Cummins, Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board and the Governor of St Petersburg, Georgiy Poltavchenko. The ceremony ended with a rousing call in favour of heritage preservation by the youth representatives from the UNESCO Associated Schools in Russia.