UNESCO, World Heritage and Human Rights


The webinar series titled UNESCO, World Heritage, and Human Rights is part of the  OurWorldHeritage #2021debate, a yearlong global initiative to discuss and reflect on the challenges of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention on the occasion of the upcoming  50th anniversary.

The 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention creates a provision for international and collective protection of natural and heritage with ‘outstanding universal value’. It is widely considered UNESCO’s flagship program, with 194 States Parties and over 1000 sites on its prestigious World Heritage List. Yet, the popularity of the program, propelled by the economic appeal of tourism and nationalistic aspirations, has increased the political stakes far beyond the Convention’s mandate of preservation and threatens both the implementation and the credibility of the World Heritage program.  

The human rights dimension in World Heritage processes has been disregarded from a multiplicity of angles, affecting people living in informal settlements, those suffering forced evictions, refugees, ethic and non-ethnic communities living in or nearby sites on the World Heritage list, minorities and populations living under temporary, or extended, conflict situations. The upcoming 50th anniversary of the Convention offers a moment of reflection, and an occasion to provide tangible and pragmatic suggestions to remedy to decades-long omission of this aspect, widely recognized in international law and in other UN conventions.  

The series UNESCO, World Heritage, and Human Rights (https://www.ourworldheritage.org/human-rights) is co-organized by  Prof. Lynn Meskell at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Claudia Liuzza fellow at the DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program (RDP), and Prof. Ana Vrdoljak at the University of Technology Sydney.

The webinar series will be an opportunity to highlight and reflect on cases studies that are illustrative of human rights violations in and around World Heritage sites, but that are also exemplary of wider issues of heritage sites worldwide. The webinars will open up discussion and reflection to new voices involving stakeholders from academia, museums, NGOs and civil society to explore how the principles of human rights can be related to cultural and natural heritage, with a particular focus on World Heritage. The co-organizers aim to assemble the different viewpoints into a white paper and provide recommendations that could guide future prescriptive requirements related to human rights in the policy and operational documents of the World Heritage Convention.  

Each seminar will feature presentations by invited speakers and questions and discussions from the audience with a Q&A. 

Webinar Program and Registration