ICOMOS Working Groups
ICOMOS is reflecting on its doctrinal input and good practices on topical themes involving the conservation of cultural heritage. To this end, ICOMOS has set up working groups comprising various ICOMOS members and heritage professionals: architects, archaeologists, professors, researchers and scientists.
The outcomes of these groups can be the drafting of a charter as well as the implementation of practical activities (working sessions, workshops).
"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.
(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.
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
(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
Working Group on Indigenous Heritage
Focal Point: Mr Christophe Rivet, ICOMOS Canada
The Working Group on Indigenous Heritage is an international multi-disciplinary initiative that aims to better understand the different facets of Indigenous heritage.
Indeed, at the General Assembly in Delhi in 2017, ICOMOS members voted unanimously on a resolution on indigenous heritage. This resolution is in line with the objectives of the World Heritage Convention, a large number of international charters and national committees, as well as on the declaration of Nara on authenticity. Its purpose was to emphasize the need to focus on the complex dimensions of this heritage in order to better equip the organization and contribute to its protection.
The resolution emphasizes the following points:
“Recognizes that the definition and conservation of Indigenous cultural heritage requires the development of guidance that reflects the form and nature of this heritage;
Further acknowledges that the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and of their perspectives in the development of this guidance is a goal that needs to be pursued through the work of ICOMOS National and International Scientific Committees;
Resolves to set up a working group composed of ICOMOS National and International Scientific Committees members within the first year following the adoption of this resolution. The mandate of this working group is to develop guidance on the theory and best practices related to the identification and conservation of Indigenous cultural heritage. A secretariat may be hosted by one of the National Committees to support the work;
Notes that, while this working group will strive to include the leadership of Indigenous peoples from around the world, it is understood that it will not legitimately reflect all the views or impede on the rights of Indigenous peoples.”(Resolution 19GA 2017/27)
Following this resolution, a group of professionals from different backgrounds was formed to set the initiative in motion. ICOMOS Canada offered to set up a secretariat to coordinate a working group.
The immediate priorities of the group are:
- A first emphasis on the place of indigenous heritage within the framework of the World Heritage Convention, in particular on the ability of the Guidelines guiding the implementation of the World Heritage Convention to provide adequate tools in the preparation and evaluation of indigenous values;
- The formalization of the working group and the development of a work plan;
- The holding of an international meeting on the subject in Canada.
Photo : Enfants Anishinaabe children on the Poplar river, Canada, 2015 © De Vries, Gregory W.
Sustainable Development Goals Working Group
Established as an interdisciplinary task force by the ICOMOS Scientific Council during the 18th General Assembly in 2014, the Sustainable Development Goals Working Group (SDGWG) coordinates the response and implementation by ICOMOS of the UN 2030 Agenda. The Working Group seeks to conserve, safeguard, steward and engage with all types of heritage while providing cultural, social and economic development to communities, limiting environmental impact of heritage, promoting peace among people and advocating for strategic partnerships in this Decade of Action.
The SDGWG acts as a platform for recognition and mainstreaming the effective contribution of cultural heritage as a driver and enabler of sustainable development in the process of implementing the United Nations Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It does this through a coordinated process of advocacy for localizing and monitoring of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, from the perspective of cultural heritage, based on Target 11.4, to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage to make our cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. It also aims to embed the contribution of ICOMOS in protecting and safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage as an enabler of achieving all 17 SDGs.
Current Focus and Task Teams
Policy Guidance on Heritage and the SDGs – The Task Team gathers local initiatives and further develops a robust and versatile resource for various relevant stakeholders on the practical role of cultural heritage in sustainable development. The Task Team draws from international documents including ICOMOS doctrine, and other relevant sources, case studies and initiatives to inform evidence-based policy and discussion through clear guidelines.
Engagement with the UN High Level Political Forum and the Culture2030Goal Campaign – The Task Team participates at the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), where the global review of progress on the SDGs takes place. It responds to various similar UN processes and requests as needed and engages with the NGO Major Group and other partner institutions, such as the Culture2030Goal Campaign to integrate culture in the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030.
National Liaisons and Localizing Heritage and the SDGs – The Task Team engages with ICOMOS National Committees, International Scientific Committees and Working Groups to contribute to activities, develop ideas, facilitate discourse with governments, and engage and partner with local stakeholders to embed heritage in achieving the SDGs.
World Heritage and Sustainable Development Policy - The Task Team engages with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Advisory Bodies, and other NGOs to support State Parties develop implementation strategies for the 2015 World Heritage and Sustainable Development Policy.
Partnerships and the New Urban Agenda – The Task Team develops and strengthens partnerships and collaborations with researchers, practitioners, civil society and other relevant actors like UN-Habitat and UCLG. It provides guidance and emphasizes the role of heritage as a useful and practical driver of making all kinds of human settlements such as cities, towns, and urban areas inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable through relevant activities. It also supports the application of the HUL Approach.
Heritage Evaluation Criteria and Indicators –The Task Team identifies tools to assess how heritage and its values serve as a driver and enabler of sustainability. This is supported by academic research and applied practice, qualitative and quantitative data from different contexts, scales and phases.
Funding, Human Resource and Internships – The Task Team engages with partners to provide financial, technological and human resources to support the engagement of the Working Group on transversal issues of heritage and the SDGs. It also facilitates the Working Group’s Internship Programme to provide Emerging Professionals with opportunities to work with experts to develop SDG–related research.
Heritage and Gender Equality – The Task Team highlights gender intersection in heritage narratives and engages with relevant actors to establish and enable gender-sensitive, gender-responsive and gender-transformative policies and practices in the heritage field.
Communications – The Task Team creates initiatives to improve internal and external engagement to support communicating with a multicultural, multilingual, international network. It works with the ICOMOS Secretariat to provide relevant content to ICOMOS members and the wider public on heritage and the SDGs.
Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals Policy guidance
In progress of translation
French - Spanish - Arabic - Portuguese - Turkish - Farsi
Emerging Professionals Working Group
Contact : epwg.secretary[at]icomos.org
The ICOMOS International EPWG was established in 2017, in response to the 2016 ICOMOS Annual Report's call for expansion of the Emerging Professional membership base. Nine resolutions were passed at the 19th ICOMOS General Assembly, in Delhi, India, that constituted the roles and scope of activity undertaken by the EPWG (Resolution 19GA 2017/33 – Emerging Professionals Initiative). International and regional teleconferences are organized by the EPWG, to track the progress of ongoing initiatives, share updates, and further engage emerging heritage practitioners, in the role of an ICOMOS Working Group.
The current Emerging Professional representative on the ICOMOS International Board is Stacy Vallis (ICOMOS New Zealand), elected at the 20th General Assembly, in December 2020.
Activities of the 2018 International Day of Monuments and Sites
The 2018 theme of the ICOMOS International Day for Monuments and Sites (“IDMS”) is Heritage for Generations, led by the ICOMOS Emerging Professionals Working Group. The International Day of Monuments and Sites 2018 was an opportunity to recall the importance of intergenerational exchanges in safeguarding and promoting heritage. Activities were aimed at fostering fruitful inter-generational dialogue. These included conferences, training sessions, roundtables, poster campaigns, evenings with younger and older members professionals and non-professionals, and interactive tours of heritage sites. The central strategy of the IDMS focused mainly on the dissemination of information on events on social networks. Here is the events list of IDMS 2018: https://www.icomos.org/en/focus/18-april-international-day-for-monuments-and-sites/events2013
Submitted images of the various IDMS events were uploaded to the ICOMOS Photobank. These images will be used for future programmes of ICOMOS, particularly on the topic of “Presentation and Transmission of Heritage”. All photo contributions were named “2018 IDMS #heritage4generations”, which can be found here: https://www.icomos.org/en/mediatheque
Image : © ICOMOS - photograph from the General Assembly 2017
Text updated on 14 June 2019
Focal point: Samir Abdulac
The ongoing crisis in the Region including Syria and Iraq has had devastating effects in terms of human suffering as well as cultural Heritage destruction. In post-conflict phase, large-scale hasty demolition and reconstruction may also threaten the authenticity and integrity of heritage if no adequate guidelines for reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery are provided.
The 18th ICOMOS General Assembly, meeting in Florence, November 2014, unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the Executive Committee to continue to respond to this tragedy by tasking the ICOMOS Working Group on the safeguarding of the cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, in cooperation with UNESCO and other international and national partners to coordinate the activities of ICOMOS related to fostering cooperation and exchanges, as long as the present conflict and its subsequent consequences continue.
Download Resolution 18GA 2014/21
Adopted Strategy combines different actions:
• Monitoring and Evaluating the Situation
A permanent monitoring of the situation in the war-torn Region, including documentation and field visits, allows an up to-date useful knowledge and understanding of challenges, needs, opportunities, actors and stakeholders. A data basis is being assembled with trilingual information (AR-EN-FR).
• Participating in high level Reflections and Exchanges
Thanks to its expertise, the WG actively participated in dozens of international meetings, workshops, seminars or colloquia in Europe, the Arab region and the United States.
Download Syros 2015 Paper (EN)
Download Lens 2017 Paper (FR)
• Developing Information and Awareness
Providing interviews to the media and papers in scientific publications. Promotion of "ICORP on the Road” video project.
• Training Local Professionals
Syrian professionals were trained as early as 2013. Others later. Subjects included Risk preparedness and Architectural surveys. Vernacular architecture is being explored.
• Providing Advice and Assistance
Advisory assistance to World Heritage monitoring, to national committees setting up and to local agencies and authorities urgent requests.
• Participating in Global International Programmes
The Working Group has actively participated in the definition and implementation of a EU funded UNESCO program for the Safeguarding of Syrian Heritage, based in Beirut, as well as in the preparation of the new ALIPH fund for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict areas.
• Undertaking Projects in Partnership
Thanks to external multi-disciplinary partnerships, ICOMOS became involved in activities that its own budget would not allow. This is the case of two projects: ANQA ("phoenix" in Arabic) and AMAL ("hope" in Arabic).
Download final report on project Anqa
Download Delhi 2017 Paper (EN)
Photo : © Samir Abdulac, Aleppo - Sorted and numbered stones from the collapsed minaret of the Umayyad Mosque, January 2019
Climate Action Working Group
Focal point: Will Megarry
The ICOMOS Climate Action Working group was established in 2016 as the ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group (CCHWG) and was initially formed to address three specific tasks. These were to a) Develop and coordinate ICOMOS inputs into the update of the 2007 World Heritage Committee “Policy Document on the Impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Properties", b) Develop a draft global climate change organizational engagement program for ICOMOS, and c) Coordinating the drafting of a new ICOMOS Charter on Climate Change and Heritage. In 2019, the working group published The Future of our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action report, which put forward a multi-disciplinary approach to cultural heritage, the report is intended for site managers, scientists, researchers, but also to climate activists and policy-makers.
The Working Group has now entered a new phase. In 2020, the ICOMOS General Assembly declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. This called for ‘urgent collective action by all relevant actors to safeguard cultural and natural heritage from climate change… [and] calls on all the ICOMOS community to implement heritage responses to climate change’. In 2021, the Assembly endorsed an ambitions Triennial Scientific Plan which, for the first time, established the organization's research agenda around a single issue: Climate Change. The role of the Climate Action Working group is to support, equip and resource the ICOMOS community. With over 100 focal points in National and International scientific Committees, it is ideally suited to meet this challenge.
The Climate Action Working Group has two objectives to help meet this aim. These are:
1. The establishment of an online resource portal or one-stop-shop for the ICOMOS and
wider heritage community, which will contain thematic resources including examples of best-
practice, relevant polices and guidance and case studies of stories from around the world.
2. To create an engagement plan to communicate, raise awareness and literacy and promote
action amongst the ICOMOS community.
The Climate Action Working Group has also been involved in a wide range of research projects. These have touched on a range of themes highlighted in the Future of our Pasts report and include:
• The Heritage on the Edge Project which has focused on the communicative power of cultural
heritage to raise ambition and promote climate action.
• The CVI Africa Project which is exploring the development of new tools and methodologies to
assess the vulnerability of heritage places.
• The International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage, and Climate Change which is
building new conversations and collaborations between the broad fields of culture, heritage,
and climate change that will support future research and action in climate science,
adaptation, and mitigation.
Photos: Equity and Climate Justice © Google Arts and Culture, 2018. Climate and Adaptation © William Megarry, 2017.