Two Events at 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee Highlight Role of Culture in Post-2015 Agenda

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee

Bonn, Germany, July, 2015 – Two side events highlighting the role of cultural heritage in sustainable urban development and the Post-2015 agenda were held during the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee.The annual Committee meeting brings together members and observers from the 191 State Parties that have ratified the World Heritage Convention, as well as scholars and elements of civil society interested in cultural and natural heritage.

The first session entitled “Cultural Heritage in the Post-2015 Agenda: the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Road to Habitat III” was sponsored by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).Andrew Potts, ICOMOS Focal Point for the UN SDG Process, reported on the inclusion of a heritage-related target, Target 11.4, in the SDGs and the work to develop a measurement indicator for the Target.  Prof. Dr. Jyoti Hosagrahar of ICOMOS India clarified that cultural heritage comprehends not just isolated monuments but humanity’s historical, cultural and social memory and forms a crucial aspect of the development process. Prof. Francesco Bandarin, announced a major International Conference on Culture for Sustainable Cities being convened by UNESCO from 10-12 December 2015 in Hangzhou, China that will contribute to the elaboration of the Habitat III process.

The inclusion of a heritage-related target, Target 11.4, in the so-called Urban section of the SDGs (Goal 11) has put a spotlight on the role of cultural heritage in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.This focus is complimented by the inclusion of the Urban Culture and Heritage topic within the Habitat III theme on Social Cohesion and Equity – Livable Cities.  Speakers at the ICOMOS session spoke to the capacity of heritage to strengthen social cohesion, social well-being and to enhance the livability of cities, and the need to reflect these concepts in the “New Urban Agenda” and Habitat III.

A second session held in Bonn entitled “Getting ready for the transformation opportunity 2016 / 2030: Connecting Arts, Creativity, Culture, Heritage and sustainable development strategies” was sponsored by the German Commission for UNESCO.  Speakers, including Mr. Potts, Valentina Montalto, of KEA, Brussels and Prof. Dr. Luigi Fusco Girard, President of ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on the Economics of Conservation, addressed the role of heritage, culture and creativity in urban sustainable development. The session produced a lively conversation with attendees from Malaysia, India, South Africa and Germany posing questions.

Many of the attendees at both sessions had participated in #culture2015goal, an international campaign that ultimately organized more than 800 organizations across the globe around the idea that culture is both a driver and enabler of sustainable development and that the explicit inclusion of targets and indicators for culture in the SDGs would enable transformative change.

In addition to the UNESCO Conference in Hangzhou, ICOMOS plans additional Habitat III related meetings in Syros, Greece in September as part of the annual meeting of the International Committee on Historic Towns and Villages (CIVVIH). A special roundtable is planned for Bangalore, India for November 25.  ICOMOS is also developing a tool kit to facilitate engagement by national and local heritage groups in their National Habitat Committees.

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