What is ‘Our World Heritage’ collective and why you should care about it

UNESCO, the cultural and educational wing of the United Nations has been instrumental in identifying regions and monuments of historical, environmental and cultural importance since its inception in 1945. But the last couple of years have witnessed the erosion of the organization’s credibility. The inefficiency of UNESCO has resulted in the formation of a new independent heritage conservation collective called ‘Our World Heritage’. The new initiative is determined to preserve endangered heritage through citizen participation instead of relying solely on incompetent bureaucrats.

Our World Heritage was launched in November by 27 professionals who have previously worked with UNESCO and International Council on Museums and Sites (ICOMOS) including Jean-Louis Luxen, the former secretary-general of ICOMOS, and Francesco Bandarin, a former director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The collective alleges that the negligence of UNESCO in conservation of the heritage sites is deplorable and that they will form an ‘open, online, real-time crisis centre for the public, professionals, NGOs, academics and the media to flag and track critical heritage protection situations. On their website, they have mentioned in detail about the deterioration of specific sites due to dereliction of duty.  “Cases of failure to protect great heritage sites are common, ranging from Venice, where the issue of the large ships in the lagoon has yet to be resolved, and Vienna, where high-rise construction is spoiling the urban landscape, to the Selous National Park in Tanzania, endangered by the construction of a major dam, or Machu Picchu, where a new airport under construction will destroy the sacred landscape of the site,” the organization states. The body will organize a series of 12 monthly ‘thematic discussions’ in 2021, which seeks to address issues linked to conservation and management such as “tourism and its impact on conservation” and “disasters and pandemics” and aims to mobilize to renew and reinforce heritage protection for the next 50 years. Meanwhile, a conference on the future of the world’s heritage is scheduled for April 2022, marking the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO’s historic World Heritage Convention. It has said that it welcomes initiatives like Our World Heritage and would foster constructive dialogue to address challenges.

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