Gamini Wijesuriya is a conservation professional from Sri Lanka. After graduating with a Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in architecture from the University of Moratuwa, he became Director of Conservation at the Department of Archeology of Sri Lanka in 1983.
While maintaining his professional practice, he specialized in historical preservation (Carnegie Mellon University) and Archeology/Heritage Management (York University) before obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Leiden in 1998. In 2000, he left Sri Lanka to work as Principal Regional Scientist in the Department of Conservation of New Zealand. From 2004 to 2017, he served in ICCROM's Sites Unit, where he developed capacity-building activities related to heritage conservation and management, including World Heritage. Recent publications include "Towards the De-secularization of Heritage," Built Heritage, no 2, vol.1, 2017, p.1-15, and "The New Heritage Studies and Education, Training, and Capacity- Building" in W. Logan et al. (eds.), A Companion to Heritage Studies, Malden, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016, p.557-573.
Gamini Wijesuriya has been involved with the World Heritage Convention since the 1980s when he contributed to the development of Sri Lanka's Tentative List and early nomination proposals under the guidance of his mentor Roland Silva. Founding member of ICOMOS Sri Lanka, he carried out several evaluation and monitoring missions for ICOMOS, particularly in Laos, India and Pakistan. As Deputy Coordinator of World Heritage activities at ICCROM, he participated as an official delegate at Committee sessions from 2004 to 2007. He worked on the process of monitoring the state of conservation (SOC) of World Heritage sites and contributed significantly to developing the "World Heritage Strategy for Capacity Building". In this regard, he has contributed in particular to the development of the World Heritage Resource Manuals, as well as the courses offered on the subject by ICCROM. Since 2013, he has led the development of programs to link nature, culture and people by bringing together all the institutional actors of the Convention and by running an ICCROM course on people-centred approaches to the conservation of nature and culture.
The following audio excerpts are from an interview conducted with Gamini Wijesuriya by Christina Cameron and Mechtild Rössler the 29 June 2018 in Manama, Bahrain. According to Wijesuriya, the Convention provides a unique platform for promoting and improving heritage conservation, including through increased engagement of communities and national institutions. It also encourages advisory bodies to collaborate further, and calls for reform of the nomination process to counter the politicization of the Committee.
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).