UNESCO, World Heritage and Human Rights

The human rights dimension in World Heritage processes has been neglected from a multiplicity of angles, with serious implications for people living in and nearby World Heritage sites.

The 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convection 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 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. We plan 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.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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PAST EVENTS

WEBINAR #1: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS STANDARDS: PERSPECTIVES FOR THE FUTURE OF HERITAGE PRESERVATION
WEBINAR #2: EVICTION AND RESETTLEMENT ISSUES IN WORLD HERITAGE SITES: PERSPECTIVES FROM HAMPI AND PETRA
WEBINAR #3: THE PROTECTION OF HERITAGE IN SITUATIONS OF PROTRACTED CONFLICT: PERSPECTIVES FROM MARDIN & DIYARBAKIR
WEBINAR #4: THE PROTECTION OF HERITAGE IN SITUATIONS OF PROTRACTED CONFLICT: PERSPECTIVES FROM HEBRON, BATTIR, PALMYRA AND HOMS
WEBINAR #5: WORLD HERITAGE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
WEBINAR #X: ADDRESSING HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS IN WORLD HERITAGE SITES
WEBINAR #Y: THE HUMAN RIGHTS TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
– AVAILABLE ONLINE

ORGANISERS

Lynn Meskell, Coordinator

Lynn Meskell, Coordinator

University of Pennsylvania

Lynn Meskell is a Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Historic Preservation in the Weitzman School of Design. At the Penn Museum she is curator in the Middle East and Asia sections. She is currently AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University (2019-2025). She holds an Honorary Professorship in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and in the Center for Archaeology, Heritage & Museum Studies, Shiv Nadar University, India. Over the last decade Lynn has conducted an institutional ethnography of UNESCO World Heritage, tracing the politics of governance and sovereignty and the subsequent implications for multilateral diplomacy, international conservation, and heritage rights. Employing archival and ethnographic analysis, her book A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (2018, OUP New York), reveals UNESCO’s early forays into a one-world archaeology and its later commitments to global heritage.

Claudia Liuzza, Co-Convener

Claudia Liuzza, Co-Convener

Duke University

Claudia Liuzza is an anthropologist and archaeologist with interests in cultural heritage diplomacy, institutional ethnography, bureaucracies, heritage politics, global heritage philanthropy and public archaeology. Her doctoral dissertation focused on a long-term ethnographic and archival research of the political and financial challenges of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Her work highlights the faltering of post-WWII ideals, integral to the UN and its specialised agencies, of an intergovernmental responsibility for rebuilding and rehabilitation. Her work offers an object lesson about the challenges of enforcing a collective duty for issues of global relevance. Claudia’s international research experience includes fieldwork in Egypt, India, China and Jordan. She is a founding member and former coordinator of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites. Claudia received her doctorate and master’s in Anthropology from Stanford University. She also has a Laurea cum Laude in Conservation of Cultural Heritage from the University of Pisa.

Ana Filipa Vrdoljak, Co-Convener

Ana Filipa Vrdoljak, Co-Convener

UTS University of Technology, Sydney

Ana Filipa Vrdoljak is Professor of Law, Faculty of Law and UNESCO Chair of International Law and Cultural Heritage at the University of Technology Sydney, and visiting Professor Remnin Law School, Beijing. She is the author of International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, 2nd edn forthcoming 2021) and editor of Oxford Handbook on International Cultural Heritage Law with Francesco Francioni (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), International Law for Common Goods: Normative Perspectives in Human Rights, Culture and Nature with Federico Lenzerini (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2014) and The Cultural Dimension of Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). She is co-General Editor of the Oxford University Press book series Cultural Heritage Law and Policy, and Commentaries on International Cultural Heritage Law, Advisory Board member of the International Journal of Cultural Property, and President of the International Cultural Property Society (U.S.).

Kathryn Wright

Kathryn Wright

Team Member

Kathryn Wright is a PhD Candidate at Melbourne Law School. Her doctoral thesis examines the implications of a human rights approach to heritage listing and management under the World Heritage Convention. Prior to joining Melbourne Law School, Kathryn was the associate to the Honourable Justice Richard Niall at the Supreme Court of Victoria, Court of Appeal. She also has experience working as a solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills, a global commercial law firm . Kathryn holds a Juris Doctor from Melbourne Law School. She also holds a BA(Hons) and MA in archaeology and anthropology from the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded the Jemima Clough Prize for academic excellence and was appointed a Scholar of Newnham College for academic achievement.

Chinaza Okonkwo

Chinaza Okonkwo

Team Member
Claire Epstein

Claire Epstein

Team Member
Jing Jing Piriyalertsak

Jing Jing Piriyalertsak

Team Member
Kathryn Kalady Osowski

Kathryn Kalady Osowski

Team Member
Marissa Ephron

Marissa Ephron

Team member
Rachelle Frédéric

Rachelle Frédéric

Team Member
Roxanna Perez

Roxanna Perez

Team Member
Sneha Sebastian

Sneha Sebastian

Team Member

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