Heritage encompasses tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, movable and immovable assets inherited from the past and transmitted to future generations. Through a complete set of Conventions concerning heritage, UNESCO offer a unique platform for international cooperation and dialogue, fostering mutual respect, appreciation and understanding. These legal instruments support the development of national policies for heritage protection, with an emphasis on preservation, management and training.
In addition to addressing various issues concerning the protection of World Heritage Sites, UNESCO New Delhi takes initiatives in the conservation and revitalization of local heritage sites, living culture and traditions in the four sub-regional countries, including Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. In South Asia, where there are rich urban heritage and traditions in need of protection, with a widening gap between urban and rural areas in terms of economic conditions, access to infrastructure and services, and opportunities for socio-economic mobility, there is a pressing need for an effective framework for locally-rooted cooperation. As a source of identity, heritage is a valuable factor for empowering local communities and enabling vulnerable groups to participate fully in social and cultural life.
- World Heritage Convention and Heritage Sites
- Indian Heritage Cities Network
- Natural Disaster and Heritage
- Armed Conflict and Heritage
- Underwater Cultural Heritage
World Heritage Convention and Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. On 16th November 1972, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage on the basis of the decision made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, where the States realized the need to protect the cultural and natural heritage. Each States Party to the World Heritage Convention has been given the duty to identify the sites within their territory that needs to be preserved and thus made available to the future generations. On inclusion of the sites to the World Heritage List, the State Party gets eligible to obtain the cooperation of the international community, and to inform its people of the outstanding value and, thus, to help preserve its national heritage.
Indian Heritage Cities Network
The Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN), originally founded as a programme of UNESCO New Delhi in 2006, aims to bring together Indian historic cities and towns on a common platform to share experiences and good practices for sustainable development and conservation of their unique cultural heritage. The Network creates city-to-city partnerships between the local population, technical experts, and the administration, and encourages active local community participation.
To ensure the sustainability of the programme, an officially registered Indian organization, the Indian Heritage Cities Network Foundation (IHCN-F) was established in 2009 as a result of 3 years of activities under the IHCN programme of UNESCO. The membership of IHCN and all activities of UNESCO-IHCN have since been transferred to the Foundation. UNESCO continues to support the IHCN-F in its initial years to establish a collaborative framework under which the Foundation will spin off by itself and become self-sustainable.
Natural Disaster and Heritage
UNESCO is mandated to facilitate and promote the use of science and technology to contribute to disaster risk reduction and conflict resolution. Reinforcing scientific cooperation is the key to improve capacity for disaster reduction and management at heritage sites. Catastrophic disasters in recent years such as the Maharashtra floods of 2005, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, Christchurch, Haiti and Chile Earthquakes of 2010, and the recent Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and Thailand Floods in 2011, have caused tremendous damage to the natural and cultural heritage in these areas. UNESCO's work on natural disasters includes the assessment of natural hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and various hydrological risks, as well as the fostering of measures for disaster prevention and preparedness.
Armed Conflict and Heritage
The cultural heritage reflects the life of the community, its history and its identity. Its preservation helps to rebuild broken communities, re-establish their identities, and link their past with their present and future. The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property i n the Event of Armed Conflict adopted at The Hague, Netherlands, in 1954, is the first international treaty of a worldwide vocation dedicated exclusively to the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict.
It covers immovable and movable cultural heritage, including architectural monuments, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological significance, as well as scientific collections of all kinds regardless of their origin or ownership.
The destruction of cultural property in the course of the conflicts that took place at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, called for the necessity of a number of improvements to be made in the implementation of the Hague Convention. A review of the Convention was initiated in 1991, resulting in the adoption of a Second Protocol to the Hague Convention in March 1999.
Underwater Cultural Heritage
Underwater Cultural Heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie under water and have a cultural or historical character. When we look back over the history, cities have been swallowed by waves, and thousands of ships have perished at sea. While these ships, buildings and historical objects are not frequently visible on the surface, their remains survived at the bottom of lakes, seas and oceans, and are well preserved in the water environment. However, looting of the underwater archaeological sites and destruction of their contexts have increased rapidly, threatening to deprive humanity of this heritage.
Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and protect such heritage, UNESCO elaborated in 2001 the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. In this Convention, “Underwater Cultural Heritage” means all traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character, which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years.