Forum on the 50th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention Held in Beijing
On 14 January 2023, the Forum on the 50th Anniversary of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was held in Beijing in a hybrid format. Under the theme of "World Heritage for the Next 50 Years", the Forum was co-hosted by the National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the National Cultural Heritage Administration and Tsinghua University. The opening ceremony was chaired by Mr. Qin Changwei, Secretary-General of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO. Nearly 1,000 representatives from management bodies of World Heritage sites, UNESCO Category 2 Centres and UNESCO Chairs in China attended the forum online.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Chen Jie, Vice Minister of Education of the People's Republic of China, highly appreciated the outstanding contribution made by the World Heritage Convention to protecting the common asset of mankind, safeguarding the world's cultural diversity and promoting global sustainable development. He pointed out that China will follow the requirements put forward at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on putting more effort into protecting cultural artifacts and heritage, promoting harmony between humanity and nature, and deepening exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations.
Mr. Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, commended China for its leading role in the implementation of the Convention and the safeguarding of biodiversity. He thanked China for sharing its rich experience and expertise in the field of heritage protection and for supporting cross-border heritage protection cooperation along the Silk Roads and World Heritage capacity building in Africa.
Mr. Li Chunliang, Deputy Administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said China's nature reserve system and the natural World Heritage sites benefiting from the system have played an important role in protecting the environment, alleviating poverty, promoting local economic and social development, addressing climate change and safeguarding biodiversity. China has issued the National Park Spatial Layout Plan, and will develop the national park-based nature reserve system, in order to ensure the sustainable development of the natural World Heritage resources.
Mr. Guan Qiang, Deputy Administrator of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, said China is committed to: transforming new World Heritage ideas into practice, continuously shaping a sound legal and planning system, enhancing the capacity of conservation institutions and staffs, establishing a coordinated conservation mechanism and improving monitoring and early warning systems. China will carry out cultural heritage conservation projects, in order to promote the sustainable social and economic development of heritage sites.
Mr. Xiang Botao, Vice Chairperson of the University Council of Tsinghua University, noted that in the conservation of World Heritage, universities not only provide theories and methods from the perspective of research, but also assist in training talents and inspiring youth participation in the exchanges among civilizations. In the future, Tsinghua University will further develop disciplines related to World Heritage conservation, build more platforms for exchange and cooperation and contribute more wisdom and strength to World Heritage protection in China and around the world.
The discussion session was chaired by Prof. Lyu Zhou from the National Heritage Centre of Tsinghua University. Mr. Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of UNESCO World Heritage, delivered a keynote speech. He highlighted that the World Heritage Convention linked for the first time the concepts of natural and cultural heritage protection, while referring to the concept of ecological civilization promoted by China to find a way for man and nature to live in harmony. He called for joint actions to address global challenges such as climate change and protect the common asset of mankind.
Mr. Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Beijing Office, said the key to achieving sustainable implementation of the Convention lied in enhancing the capacity of practitioners, institutions, communities, and other stakeholders in heritage conservation, and that UNESCO stands ready to strengthen cooperation with the Chinese Government and other relevant partners to make World Heritage a source of resilience, humanity and innovation.
Representatives of China’s World Heritage site managers shared their experience in heritage conservation and management. Fang Yanhong, Head of Wuyishan National Park Administration, shared the experience of coordinated protection and development of China’s World Heritage sites and national parks. Hao Weixiang, Director of the Administrative Committee of Jinfo Mountain, which constitutes part of the South China Karst, shared the best practices in protecting geological evolution and biodiversity and raising public awareness of green development and ecological values. Su Bomin, Dean of Dunhuang Academy, shared the experience in using digital technologies to achieve a better balance between protection and tourism. He also shared the experience in continuously optimizing the management methods and fulfilling social responsibilities through effective communication. Jiang Weidong, Director of Liangzhu Museum, introduced the recent findings of the continuous archaeological work, shared the experience in balancing protection and local economic and social development, and showcased their exploration of innovative presentation.
Relevant UNESCO Category 2 Centres in China introduced their active engagement in the conservation of World Heritage. Zhou Jian, Secretary-General of the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and Pacific Region (WHITR-AP), introduced the series of activities organized by WHITR-AP to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Convention, including the 2022 Global Awards for World Heritage Education Innovative Cases and the related International Sharing Forum. Wang Xinyuan, Deputy Director of the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST), introduced their work to building a whole-chain heritage protection and management system based on space information technology, and shared the experience in establishing a digital platform to implement effective and precise management, carry out scientific and technological exchanges, enhance capacity building, and showcase the best practices.
China has ratified the Convention in 1985 and currently has 56 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including 14 natural sites, 38 cultural sites and 4 mixed sites. Since 2022, China has carried out a variety of activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Convention.