About the Project

About the Project

On the 16th of November 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention. The Institute Heritage Studies celebrates the birthday of the convention focusing on the convention itself, its achievements as well as its failures, to identify conflicts, to develop conflict solving strategies and to perceive future perspectives. We want to develop a critical outlook on the World Heritage convention based on the important categories “responsibility”, “reconciliation” and “sustainability”.

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Heritage creates identity. This is the message of the critical sociology, mainly of Norbert Elias, one of the most important scientists behind UNESCOs founding ideas. Based on this it is consequent that individuals and societies are responsible for the sustainable safeguarding of their heritage. The choice of the theme “50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility – Conflict & Reconciliation” is therefore to reflect on the identity-building function of heritage.

The destruction of heritage is multidimensional. And even though, in the course of time, heritage has continuously been destroyed through war and terrorism, climate change, technological change, modernisation, commodification, international policies and/or urban transformation processes etc, the effects of those processes on the identity of peoples and societies have always been the same. The destruction of heritage is destroying identity.


The project aims to celebrate the World Heritage Convention on its 50th anniversary, on 16 November 2022, in the form of a book, which consists of appreciating the successes and processing the failures of the Convention, based on our shared responsibility. To this end, our project pursues three interrelated goals. First, we want to identify the conflicts that world heritage faces and analyse their causes. Only knowledge about reasons, backgrounds and intentions of heritage destruction processes allows us to define strategies and responsibilities. Second, we want to reflect on short, medium, and long term conflict avoiding and conflict solving strategies. Third, we want to elaborate these strategies in the context of the Agenda 2030.


The outcome of the project is the publication of a book that relates in particular the future of the World Heritage Convention to such important values as “responsibility”, “reconciliation” and “sustainability” focussing on mainly 6 conflict areas (Global Governance, Urban Transformation, Technological Change, Climate Change, War and Terrorism, Commodification).
The book is going to be published in the Heritage Studies Series of Springer, an academic publication series co-edited by Marie-Theres Albert and Claire Cave.

Description: The destruction of heritage is multidimensional

Today 1121 sites in 167 countries are inscribed in the World Heritage list. Out of these nearly 50% are in Europe and the US. The other 50% are shared by the rest of the world. You find this unbalanced distribution also in the inscription of cultural and natural heritage; reasons why the inscription procedure defined in the Operational Guidelines and mainly the consciousness of the international community has to be changed. In the course of time some improvements – like the global strategy, the 5 C’s, mainly the initiative to involving communities  –  have been implemented, however the conflicts have not been avoided or even resolved.

If you look at the sites inscribed on the list in danger, the reality is contrary. Most of the sites in danger are in Arab States (21 cultural sites) and Africa (12 natural sites), that is to say in developing countries. This means, the future perspective of World Heritage has not only to include the analyses of the causes of heritage in danger but has also to provide strategies to overcome this unbalanced distribution of sites inscribed in the World Heritage list and the World Heritage list in danger.

However, the project does not only focus on the sites, which are currently on the list in danger. As the perception is the future, we need to reflect upon the overall and worldwide social, cultural, economic and ecological developments that the heritage of humanity faces currently. And based on the concept of identifying conflicts, developing resolving strategies and perceiving the future through the integration of heritage into the Agenda 2030, we will carry out the project through thinks tanks, a conference and a book.

Procedure & Timing

The project is organized in three steps:

  1. Think Tanks in which the participants present and discuss their papers:
    04 – 11 March 2021
  2. Virtual Conference in which we will engage the broad public into discussions:
    21 – 22 June 2021
  3. publication of a Book and presentation at an event on:
    16 November 2022