Francesco Francioni studied law at the University of Florence and at Harvard University, where he obtained a master's degree in 1968. He was a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Siena from 1980 to 2003 where he directed the International Peace Studies Centre and the Jean Monnet Chair in European law (1999-2003).
Since 2003, he has been a professor at the European University Institute in Florence. His first contacts with World Heritage date back to 1992, when he was hired by the Italian and French governments to provide legal advice on the proposed autonomy of the new World Heritage Centre. He subsequently attended World Heritage Committee meetings from 1993 to 1998 as legal counsel for the Italian delegation, and was Chairman of the 21st session of the Committee in 1997 in Naples. During his tenure, he traveled to Kakadu National Park, Australia, to assess the potential impacts of the Jabiluka Mine on the World Heritage site.
A specialist in international cultural heritage and human rights law, Francesco Francioni has been involved in several UNESCO cultural conventions. He played a leading role in the drafting of the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. He also chaired the UNESCO meeting of experts held in Turin in 2001 to define the concept of intangible heritage in the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2003. He is a prolific author, and has notably published The 1972 World Heritage Convention: A Commentary (2008) and Enforcing International Cultural Heritage Law (2013), both at Oxford University Press.
The following audio excerpts are from an interview with Francesco Francioni by Christina Cameron and Mechtild Rössler the 10 May 2010 in Rome. He offers an interesting overview of the Convention's mechanisms from a legal point of view and analyzes the responsibilities of the various actors of the Convention (Committee, World Heritage Centre, States Parties, Advisory Bodies). In that regard, he applauds the strong institutional and professional framework of the Convention, but regrets the weakness of the Committee in dealing with certain issues in which politics took precedence over technical considerations.
Under the leadership of the Canada Research Chair on Built Heritage at the University of Montreal, an international team of researchers conducts interviews with pioneers of World Heritage to capture memories of important moments in the history of UNESCO Convention.
Launched in 2006, this initiative is part of the UNESCO History project that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the creation of UNESCO. The Oral Archives project records the precious witness of people closely associated with the creation and implementation of the Convention. Their recollections and views have greatly enriched the book by Christina Cameron and Mechtild Rössler, Many Voices, One Vision: The Early Years of the World Heritage Convention (Ashgate/Routledge, 2013).