"Our Common Dignity" - Rights-Based Approaches

OCD RBA logoThe Our Common Dignity Rights-Based Approaches Working Group (OCD|RBA) started as an ICOMOS initiative in 2007 and expanded in 2011 as a cooperation for the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention (ICCROM, ICOMOS, IUCN) under the coordination by ICOMOS Norway. The main objective of the initiative was building awareness of rights issues in World Heritage and heritage management in general, to promote “good practice” approaches and to develop and promote relevant tools and guidelines, in particular for World Heritage from tentative lists and nominations through conservation and management of the sites.

An ICOMOS OCD-RBA working group was set up by the Board in 2011, consisting of members from ICOMOS Norway, India, South-Africa and Australia. This was a result of an understanding of community engagement and rights issues being an overreaching topic which should be an integrated part of ICOMOS’ members ethos and work. The Board preferred the creation of a transversal working group instead of an International Scientific Committee.

Aboriginal culture Australia Copyright Steve Evans FlickrThe OCDI-RBA working group has cooperated with several committed ICOMOS members, representing the diversity of our organisation. The work of the OCD-RBA was recently recognised in the report by the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights - "Cultural Rights: 10th Anniversary Report" (A/HRC/40/53).The most recent OCD-RBA initiative was the adoption of a Declaration in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The ICOMOS Advisory Committee, meeting in Buenos Aires on 5 December 2018, adopted the Buenos Aires Declaration encouraging ICOMOS members, Committees and groups to: 

  • Build strong relationships with communities and peoples in their work;
  • Embrace the principle of free, prior and informed consent of source communities before adopting measures concerning their specific cultural heritage;
  • Offer all possible assistance so that communities and right holders are consulted and invited to actively participate in the whole process of identification, selection, classification, interpretation, preservation and safeguarding of, as well as the stewardship of and development of cultural heritage

In ICOMOS 2018 General Assembly in Buenos Aires, the OCD-RBA  working group issued a call to all National Committees and International Scientific Committees to showcase how they have been working over the last years on "participation and cultural heritage conservation". The focus has also been expanded from World Heritage to Cultural Heritage.

Focal Point: Laura Robinson, ICOMOS South Africa 


Picto doigtICOMOS Working Group on the "Our common dignity initiative"


(1998) Declaration of ICOMOS marking the 50t²h anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This was written at an ICOMOS meeting on human rights in Stockholm, cultural capital of Europe in 1998.

(2017) REPORT: The Advisory Body “Our Common Dignity Initiative” on Rights-based approaches in World Heritage: Taking stock and looking forward. Project Report. ICOMOS Norway, Oslo, 28p. [Book]

This document presents the key results of the Our Common Dignity initiative on rights and World Heritage undertaken by the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN) under the coordination of ICOMOS Norway between 2011 and 2016. It seeks to contribute to discussions about what is needed to build equitable and rights-based heritage conservation approaches in the World Heritage and heritage practices. The objective of the Our Common Dignity initiative has been to contribute towards building awareness of rights issues in World Heritage and heritage management in general, to promote ‘good practice’ approaches to rights and their enabling conditions, and to develop and recommend relevant tools and guidelines in World Heritage, from tentative lists and nomination through to management. 

(2017) Case studies carried out within the ‘Our Common Dignity Initiative 2011-2016: Rights-Based Approaches in World Heritage’. Rapports Techniques. ICOMOS Norge, Oslo, 28p. [Book]

The Our Common Dignity initiative has resulted in a range of activities. This document summarizes some of the independent case studies initiated by ICOMOS Norway and its partners. While not formally part of the Advisory Body collaboration, they offer important lessons and insights. The purpose of presenting these case studies now is to illustrate rights issues being discussed in various geo-cultural regions. The case studies presented here were initiated by ICOMOS Norway in dialogue and collaboration with ICOMOS National Committees and professional partners possessing extensive experience with the selected World Heritage Areas. The case studies aim to shed more light on, and contribute towards, internal and international discussions on rights issues that could or should be regarded as relevant in the context of World Heritage management and heritage management in general.

(2018) Buenos Aires Declaration marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Photograph: Aboriginal culture, Australia  ©  Steve Evans / Flickr

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