Initiatives brought up by young people at the 2019 forum ——review of the 43rd World Heritage Young Professionals Forum
Reprint：Originator: Yang Xiaopeng, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Tourism at UNESCO Designated Sites, April 7, 2020
The World Heritage Young Professionals Forum(WHYPF) is one of UNESCO's flagship events and serves as a platform for gathering young people and heritage experts from all over the world to promote mutual learning and exchanges and to reach a consensus on heritage protection. This article details the World Heritage Young Professionals Forum held in Azerbaijan in 2019, especially the forum's outcome (i.e., the Forum Declaration).
Figure 1 Group photo of the WHYPF 2019 in Azerbaijan
Ⅰ. Background of the World Heritage Young Professionals Forum 2019
The World Heritage Youth Forum is divided into the World Heritage Young Professionals Forum and the World Heritage Youth Forum. The key difference between the two lies in the purpose and targeted group (Table 1). The Youth Forum held in Azerbaijan in 2019 was the World Heritage Young Professionals Forum.
Table 1 Difference between the two forms of the Youth Forums
Source: compiled by the author based on previous youth forums
The 43rd WHYPF hosted by the Ministry of the Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan was held in Baku from June 23 to July 2, 2019. The theme of the forum was “World Heritage: Local Insights for Global Challenges”. The overall goal of the forum was to “emphasize and focus on key opportunities and challenges facing heritage management in the 21st century”.
Ⅱ. The main components of the World Heritage Young Professionals Forum 2019
During the forum, the young scholars carried out four major activities:
Firstly, they participated in site visits. Led by experts or local guides, thirty young scholars surveyed the Upland Park, the Icheri sheher, the Gobustan Rock Art Museum, the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and the Bibiheybat Mosque. They went to the Gabala Archaeological Center to learn about the progress of local exploration projects, and visited Lahij to explore local traditional copper coin-making techniques, and discussed how to protect intangible cultural heritage. They also studied in the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art, Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum, and other museums to learn more about the local culture.
Figure 2 Young scholars visiting the heritage sites
Secondly, they heard from the experts. During the forum, the organizer invited world-renowned experts to give keynote speeches on heritage-related topics, covering three aspects. The first is an introduction to the Session of the World Heritage Committee and its youth forum and analysis of key concepts in world heritage protection, such as discussions around important concepts like “Outstanding Universal Value”. The second is an introduction to the local heritage of Azerbaijan and how well they have been protected, including an analysis of the value and management measures of the ancient city of Baku, the architecture and culture of Baku, the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and so on. The third is an analysis of the practical problems of world heritage management and protection, such as introducing comprehensive measures to manage the religious and cultural landscape of Azerbaijan using model methods, and management measures for intangible cultural heritage and cultural landscapes and so on.
Figure3 Expert Speech
Thirdly, they have roundtable discussions. During the forum, young scholars conducted discussions on topics such as the importance of protecting cultural heritage, ways to protect the cultural landscape and “the synergistic effect of tangible cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage” and so on, where they exchanged ideas, and put forward creative measures and plans.
Figure4 Roundtable of young scholars
Fourthly, participation in the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee. Young scholars participated in the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee and read the forum declaration formed at the WHYPF. In addition, to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, they also performed a traditional Australian dance.
Ⅲ.The Contents of the Forum Declaration
With a focus on the theme “World Heritage: Local Insights for Global Challenges,” young people have explored three facets of heritages in Azerbaijan from the local perspective, including the urban context in Baku, cultural landscapes in Gobustan and the intangible cultural heritage, and put forward the following viewpoints:
(1) Urbanization promotes creativity and new ways of living, but uncontrolled urbanization is likely to erode distinct local character and identity.
(2) The sustainable development of heritage relies on a solid local foundation, and the inclusion of local stakeholders in heritage management must be taken into consideration.
(3) Sustained monitoring of the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is necessary. New indicators should be created to ensure that we can take timely and appropriate measures when heritage sites are threatened.
(4) Cultural landscape is a multilevel concept in which the local communities play a central role. It will hurt both tangible and intangible cultural heritages if we ignore the link between local culture and geographic features.
(5) We should call upon all stakeholders, especially the youth and minorities, to engage in the improvement of heritage protection management system; and call on the development of local education to achieve long-term sustainable protection.
(6) It should be noted that intangible heritage is fundamental in preserving diversity and local identity of the urban and cultural landscape. We should urge all local stakeholders to establish both local and global connections and foster intercultural dialogue.
(7) Digital technology has an important role in heritage protection, and attention should be paid to the significant role of young people in heritage protection.
Figure 5 Group photo of the youth and the chairperson at the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee
As mentioned in the forum declaration, “world heritage is more than just a beautiful postcard picture or tourism booster”. World heritage is a treasure for all humankind and serves as the code of civilizations throughout human history. Faced with the new challenges presented by the 21st century, young people worldwide should draw strength from world heritage, freedom of expression, power of culture, and diversity of civilizations to advance sustainable development for humankind.
The responsibility for heritage protection rests on the shoulders of young people, and the future of civilizations requires young people to assume their due responsibilities.