Japanese-German Colloquium, BTU Cottbus
17–20 February 2010
The World Heritage Convention is now almost 38 years old and whilst its successes are well recognised its failures too are beginning to be discussed and considered more openly. The Japanese-German colloquium "World Heritage for Tomorrow: What, How and For Whom" was organised at BTU Cottbus with the aim of stimulating critical reflection on the Convention's history and scrutinising its weaknesses now, in the present, and involved international experts who will have the opportunity to address the issues in the future.
Taking the discussion at the Thirty-third World Heritage Committee session on the Convention's future and the more recent reflection at the Seventeenth General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention as a departure point, the colloquium sought to address issues relating to the Convention's approach towards conservation, credibility, degree of representation, balance, public perception, inclusiveness, governance and financial situation. Additionally, wider notions of significance, authenticity, integrity, preservation, change, public participation, and sustainable development were also examined with reference to the World Heritage system and its associated sites.
The colloquium extended discussion on these matters by asking such question as: What is the future of the World Heritage Convention? How can it be ensured that the Convention doesn't lose sight of its founding principles and objectives? Who should these objectives serve and why? Likewise, what should be placed on the World Heritage List of tomorrow and how should it be treated to guarantee its protection, and the active and beneficial participation of key stakeholders?
The organisation of the colloquium represented the active collaboration of University of Tsukuba, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU). The main proceedings were divided into two panels which constituted of twenty paper presentations, and engaged practitioners and academics from a range of disciplines and national background in open debate and discussion. The first panel, 'What?', focused on the factors that should govern a site's inclusion on the World Heritage List, such as, significance, authenticity, and integrity, in addition to the sites which themselves might be considered as World Heritage of the future. The second, 'How?', emphasised the processes and methods which surround the protection of World Heritage Sites and cater for issues related to preservation, change, and participation.
The papers covered a variety of aspects related to the safeguarding of cultural and natural heritage, and created a balance between technical and theoretical aspects whilst clearly illustrating issues with the use of relevant case studies. Moreover, questions of 'For Whom?' and 'Why?' acted as overarching themes for both panels and inspired reflection on the spirit of the World Heritage Convention, its implementation and its relationship to broader philosophical and ethical concerns.
The interchange of views and ideas during the panel presentations and the excursion to Dresden on the last day of the colloquium provided new ideas: not only on how to cope with the challenges that confront both the sites we regard as World Heritage today and the people responsible for them, but also on how to carry on with the enormous and exciting task of defining and protecting future World Heritage sites.
Prof. Dr. Leo Schmidt