13th Annual International Symposium
Economic Benefits, Social Opportunities, and Challenges of Supporting Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development
May 20-22, 2010, Washington, DC More than 150 participants filled the 13th-floor conference room at the headquarters of The World Bank in Washington for the annual World Heritage USA International Symposium. The symposium opened Thursday afternoon (May 20) with welcoming remarks by George Skarmeas, newly elected Chair of the World Heritage USA Board of Trustees, and Gustavo Araoz, President, ICOMOS. After introductory speakers by World Bank Executive Directors Giovanni Majnoni and Pulok Chatterji, the keynote speakers talked about World Heritage and sustainable tourism.
The keynote presentations were followed by speeches by World Bank officials—Otaviano Canuto, Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, and Inger Anderson, Director of Sustainable Development, Africa Region. As of July 1, Ms. Anderson will be the new Vice President of the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network.
An evening welcome reception was held in the atrium of the World Bank. Hosted by Abha Joshi Ghani, Manager of the World Bank’s Urban Development and Local Government Unit, the reception opened with a performance by the IMF/World Bank Chorus.
For the next two days, numerous presenters discussed various aspects of heritage development, sustainable tourism, and the legal underpinnings of site protection. Presentations will be posted on the websites of both The World Bank and World Heritage USA in the coming months.
“As in years past, the World Heritage USA Symposium has proven once again to be a major event on the annual US heritage calendar. On behalf of ICOMOS and myself, my congratulations to all in World Heritage USA who took part in shaping it and to all our speakers for sharing so generously their knowledge and experience. Thanks to the Scientific Committee that shaped the initial program: Marta de la Torre, Neil Silberman, Doug Comer, Pamela Jerome and Donald Jones at World Heritage USA, and to Sherry Hutt and David Tarler at the NPS. Particular special thanks also go to Don Jones and Guido Licciardi for taking that initial program and expanding it with the development component provided by the World Bank.
Over the last couple of days we have repeatedly been shown the lessons to be learned from the many experiences presented. I believe that a major one among those lessons is the need for the heritage community to step outside our isolation cocoon and mainstream ourselves in order to engage other fields in a permanent and meaningful dialogue. The partnership between US/CIOMOS, the NPS and the World Bank has just done that. It has moved us beyond our much repeated rhetorical intent and begun this dialogue with a new institutional partner community dedicated to economic development and poverty reduction.
Among the most pressing questions that have risen over the past few days and that need answering we could highlight the following few:
From Francesco Bandarin and then again from many others, we heard how cultural heritage is only one component of the much broader and all-inclusive concept of culture itself, and how both the conservation and the development fields need to re-position our work into the complexities of the pluralistic cultures of the communities for whom we work. As a corollary to that, we also need to understand the complex relationship of inextricably mutual sustainability between intangible and tangible heritage as well as between natural and cultural.
In terms of pure economics, we also confirmed that responsible tourism is a powerful tool in the protection and conservation of our heritage resources, in the creation of public awareness about its importance and in bringing benefits to local and stakeholder communities. We saw, however, that many tools and much work are still needed to prevent the economic ambitions of tourism from eroding the authenticity and significance of heritage places, and thus killing the goose of the golden eggs.