In the forum of the UN, Member States endeavour to create shared agendas for action in selected issues of special import to humanity. This historic feature of global governance has consolidated in the second half of the 20th century, but seems to be undergoing significant transformations. UNESCO was, in this period, an important arena for the development of global standards in cultural policies, especially in the field of heritage. It has produced impact not only in strengthening international cooperation, but also with the global dissemination of powerful concepts, such as World Heritage. In almost 50 years since its adoption, UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention has not only highlighted the importance of preserving cultural and natural heritage on a global scale. It also has successfully promoted the narrative of the universal value of heritage as a vector for peace and international cooperation.
Today, the architecture of global governance is challenged by reinvigorated strategies of national unilateralism and increasingly antagonistic geopolitical pressures. As a paradigmatic instance of multilateral cooperation, the World Heritage Convention mirrors these developments, marked by: the weakening of multilateral cooperation and its institutional setting; a significant shift in the balance between factual expertise and political power; a politicization of heritage selection and of interventions in UNESCO’s procedural framework; the emergence of expert and civil society initiatives and networks that publicly address growing deficiencies in the governance of the world heritage system; insufficient involvement of local stakeholders, minorities, indigenous groups and concerned communities in the governance of cultural and natural heritage.
Dr. Roland Bernecker, Visiting Professor for Cultural Management, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg & Nicole Franceschini, Research Associate, Chair of Cultural Management, BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg
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