International Conference “The Right to [World] Heritage”
BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg – October 23-25, 2014
Session 1 – Heritage and Power
This session focuses on the basic links between the cultural and natural heritage and power. In many cases especially cultural sites are immediate symbols of power, e.g. fortresses, churches or palaces. A great number of World Heritage sites are linked to undemocratic systems. The more powerful a leader or elite, the larger are their residences or graves, which again make them unique. The use of the heritage, too, is (or was) often also a privilege of a powerful elite, such as in the case of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Within this topic the right to heritage can be discusses from a historic as well as from a current political perspective. The presenters shall use case studies to highlight who are (and were) the actors and decision makers in the areas of cultural and natural heritage protection. “Best practices” as well as “worst case scenarios” will provide a valuable basis for the discussions in the following sessions.
Session 2 – Heritage in Armed Conflict
This session deals with the protection of the cultural and natural heritage in areas of war and crisis. Recently, the incidents in Mali and Syria have shown that this topic remains pressing despite the existing international agreements. The destruction of cultural sites due to religious fanaticism or even simple ignorance always presents a real danger to them. This session will therefore analyze the efficiency of existing international instruments for the protection of heritage in times of crisis, e.g. the Hague Convention and its protocols as well as the international “Blue Shield” committee. Further strategies for the prevention of these destructions shall be presented and discussed. Also the smuggling and illicit trade of cultural objects, brought forward or made easier by war and looting, shall be discussed.
Session 3 – Heritage for Everybody
This session will include presentations and discussion on the question whether (world) heritage can be interpreted as human right in the light of various international conventions. On the one hand, the focus will be on a theoretical analysis of “heritage” and “human rights” as legal terms in the sense of the conventions; on the other hand, case studies will highlight the role of the conventions for the protection of, e.g., the heritage of ethnic minorities. Additionally, the presentations shall also deal with questions of ownership and responsibility for the “heritage as global commons”. Where are the links between the global level and the local level (the location) of the heritage? How are responsibilities divided between political decision makers, the global public and the local population – the immediate “owners” of the heritage? The inclusion of the civil society in questions concerning the protection of the cultural and natural heritage will also be discussed in this session.