ICOMOS Working Groups - Our Common Dignity - RBA WG

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Aboriginal culture Australia Copyright Steve Evans Flickr"Our Common Dignity"
Rights-Based Approaches working group

 Focal Point: Laura Robinson, ICOMOS South Africa


The Our Common Dignity (OCD) 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.

The OCD-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.

Picto doigtJoin OCD-RBA working group




(2011) ICOMOS 17th General Assembly Resolution 30

The 17th ICOMOS General Assembly Requests the Executive Committee to develop an ‘Our Common Dignity’ initiative as a key activity in the ICOMOS 2012-14 Triennial Action Plan.

(2014) ICOMOS 18th General Assembly Resolution 43

The 18th ICOMOS General Assembly Requests that the Executive Committee continue to work on these issues within ICOMOS through the ‘Our Common Dignity’ component of the ICOMOS International Work Plan for 2015-2017, including:
- Reflection on the work completed in the period 2011-2014 and development of work plans that identify next steps and strategies;
- Continued consideration of rights-based approaches in the work of ICOMOS in relation to its role as an Advisory Body to the World Heritage Convention;
- Facilitating continued dialogue within ICOMOS networks to enhance understanding of these matters.

(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) TECHNICAL REPORTS: Case studies carried out within the ‘Our Common Dignity Initiative 2011-2016: Rights-Based Approaches in World Heritage 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.

(2017) TRAINING REPORT: HERITAGE AND RIGHTS, African Regional Pilot Training Course, Ditsong Museum, South Africa, 13-17 March 2017

Between 13 and 17 March 2017, about 21 participants from across nine African countries, attended the ground-breaking African Regional pilot training course on heritage and rights that was undertaken within the context of “Our Common Dignity: Towards a Rights Based Approach” hosted at Ditsong Cultural History Museum in Pretoria, South Africa.

(2017) ICOMOS 19th General Assembly Resolutions

(2017) Resolution 19GA 2017/23 – Our Common Dignity: Next steps for Rights-Based Approaches in World Heritage

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

(2021) Book of Abstracts of the 2021 Scientific Symposium: Living Heritage and Climate Change with links to video recordings of the sessions


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