In recent years, it has become an established practice that a forum is organised in conjunction with each World Heritage Committee session. Since the 41st session of the Committee (Krakow, 2017), site managers from natural, cultural and mixed World Heritage properties all around the world are invited to take part into this peer gathering aiming to empower and create new opportunities for site managers by sharing their personal knowledge enlarging their networks and experiences at an international level.
World Heritage sites managers play a crucial role in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention: they ensure the recognition and preservation of World Heritage sites’ Outstanding Universal Value and emerge as the key responsibility holders who oversees site-management decision-making.
The World Heritage Convention sets out the duty of States Parties to protect, maintain and present the sites of Outstanding Universal Value. Appropriate conditions for proper protection should be created on the State level, while the obligations are realised primarily on the level of specific sites and performed by offices, institutions, persons operating on each site and responsible for it. Their capacities, skills, awareness, dedication and knowledge about the Convention have a significant impact on the level of protection of the World Heritage sites.
Even though the State represented by relevant governmental structures is the party to the World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage site managers constitute the most significant group in the World Heritage system, the one on which the future of each World Heritage site, and largely the credibility of the Convention as an international tool facilitating the heritage protection, depends.
The decision-making authority of the Convention lies with the World Heritage Committee, responsible for updating the World Heritage List and monitoring the state of conservation of each World Heritage site. It carries out its duties through the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN).
The examination of each World Heritage site is based on both the Reactive Monitoring process and the Periodic Reporting exercise. Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee during its annual sessions pertain to selected sites and are drafted on the basis of recommendations of the Advisory Bodies and the World Heritage Centre. The recommendations are addressed entirely, or in a significant part, to the site managers for implementation. These recommendations, issued in specific circumstances, arising from the manner in which the World Heritage system operates are not always easily understandable by the site managers.
In a situation where the World Heritage List includes over 1,100 sites, maintaining a proper condition of each site becomes the most important task the Committee and all the other actors of the World Heritage system face. For this reason, it is extremely important to strengthen the role that World Heritage site managers/responsible authorities, such an important group of stakeholders, have to play in the different actions within the World Heritage system.