ICOMOS Discussion paper on Evaluations of World Heritage Nominations related to Sites Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts

ICOMOS is pleased to share its discussion paper on the Evaluations of World Heritage Nominations related to Sites Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts

This discussion paper complements the studies initiated by the World Heritage centre working groups on the interpretation of sites of memory (not confined to World Heritage properties) and the use of criterion (vi). It offers an ICOMOS perspective on evaluation of sites associated with the memories of recent conflicts in relation to the World Heritage Convention. It considers how the World Heritage Committee has considered such sites in the past, and the issues that they raise in relation to Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and the idea of commonality.

The evaluation of sites associated with memories of recent conflicts raises fundamental issues relating to the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention and how its notion of commonality might be satisfied. There are difficulties with evaluating memories which inherently are still evolving or partisan in one way or another, or where memory is re-invested with retrospective ‘truths’. These sites also might raise inconsistencies between OUV that is fixed at the time of inscription and the dynamic and political realities of the wider post-conflict processes for sites associated with recent conflicts. Difficulties arise, too, with undertaking comparative analyses for sites related to conflicts that covered large parts of the globe and/or resulted in the deaths of thousands or even millions of people, in terms of undertaking meaningful comparisons of the tragedy and loss which gives such sites their significance.

The paper concludes that the World Heritage Committee might wish to consider convening an Expert Meeting (or a series of meetings) on sites associated with memories of recent conflicts to allow for both philosophical and practical reflections on the nature of memorialization, the value of evolving memories, the inter-relationship between material and immaterial attributes in relation to memory, how meaningful comparisons of tragedy and loss might be undertaken and the issue of stakeholder consultation, as a prelude to the development of guidance on whether and how sites associated with memories of recent conflicts might relate to the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention, and perhaps more widely to an understanding as to whether World Heritage inscription that fixes OUV at the time of inscription might sit uncomfortably with the wider complex and shifting dynamics of post-conflict processes.

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