Are Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights not Considered Human Rights for the World Heritage Convention?
by Max Ooft

The World Heritage Convention has adopted policies that make clear reference to the respect of human rights and to implementing a human rights-based approach in all of its activities, in line with general United Nations’ norms and standards. There are also UN and UNESCO norms and standards more specifically on the rights of Indigenous peoples. However, there is a great gap between policy and practice, and between these policies and practically safeguarding and concretizing Indigenous peoples’ rights in the operations of the World Heritage Convention. Is it that Indigenous peoples’ rights are not considered human rights, or are considered of “a lesser order” or “of lesser importance”? Why does a UN convention, coordinated by one of the UN’s most active organization in setting standards namely UNESCO, not take more efforts to secure, respect and protect human rights when it comes to Indigenous peoples? These are some of the questions to be reviewed in this interactive session.

The Evolution of Business and Investment Perspectives on Cultural Heritage Preservation
by Paul Rissman

Last September, the CEO of the mining firm Rio Tinto and two other top executives were forced out of the company after dynamiting the Juukan Gorge, a significant archaeological site in Australia. They were forced out by…pension funds? Powerful investors have begun to stand with indigenous groups and their rights to cultural identity, from Australia to Alaska to the Amazon. In this talk I will trace the evolution of business and investor perspectives on cultural heritage protection, and its connection to environmental activism and sustainability. I will also describe how activism can accelerate the role of investors as agents of cultural protection, through the conceptualization of investment risk.

This Webinar is co-chaired by Lynn Meskell and Claudia Liuzza


Max Ooft is Policy Officer at the VIDS, Vereniging van Inheemse Dorpshoofden in Suriname (Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname).  VIDS brings together the traditional authorities of all Indigenous villages in Suriname.  Max has worked in or for various Indigenous peoples’ organizations at local community, national, regional and international level, in defense and advocacy of Indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly territorial rights, legal recognition and strengthening of the traditional Indigenous authorities and Indigenous peoples’ rights in relation to environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change.  He has been involved in various standard-setting processes, among others in UNDP and UNESCO and various environment NGOs at national and international level.

Paul Rissman

Paul Rissman received his Ph.D in 1985, so long ago, in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation topic focused on pastoralists in Bronze Age South Asia. Subsequently he was a financial analyst, portfolio manager, director of research and chief investment officer at a large asset manager. In his retirement, he originated the site preservation initiative at the Archaeological Institute of America, and co-founded Rights CoLab, a global network of human rights activists. He was an Open Society Foundation Fellow in 2019-2020, working on pressuring large investors to reverse economic inequality, and is currently a director of the Sierra Club Foundation


The series UNESCO, World Heritage, and 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 series is part of the Our World Heritage, 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.