20.03.2012 - UNESCO Venice Office

Regional Centres on Cultural Heritage in South-East Europe to meet for the first time

© Croatian Conservation Institute - The island of Vele Orijule

Scheduled on 23 March 2012 in Zadar, the "First Meeting of the Regional Centres for Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe: Cooperation, Partnerships, Funding" aims at enhancing coordination and exploring new avenues for partnerships, international cooperation, and funding opportunities.

The event organized by the UNESCO Venice Office in cooperation with the Croatian Ministry of Culture, within the framework of UNESCO’s new global initiative “Culture: a Bridge to Development”, will take place at the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology (ICUA).

The regional centres of excellence initiated within the framework of the annual Ministerial Conferences on Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe, with the support of UNESCO, are key partners for the enhancement of sub-regional cooperation and the development of institutional and professional capacities in the safeguarding of cultural heritage, intended as a shared tool for fostering dialogue and sustainable development. The further strengthening of the centres is therefore considered as a common objective by the countries in the region, with the overall aim to improve the management of cultural assets as crucial resources for social and economic development, and to support the European integration process in the concerned areas.

Based on the joint Declarations approved by the Ministerial Conferences (1), 4 centres have been officially established so far within this cooperation framework, namely: International Centre for Underwater Archaeology (Zadar, Croatia. The Centre operates under the auspices of UNESCO); Regional Centre on Intangible Cultural Heritage (Sofia, Bulgaria. The centre operates under the auspices of UNESCO); Regional Centre on Digitization of Cultural Heritage (Skopje, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia); and, Regional Centre on the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (Tirana, Albania)

A fifth centre is going to be established in 2012, in Cetinje (Montenegro), specialized in the management of cultural heritage.

After an inception period characterized by a disparity related to the specific contexts and conditions for the establishment of each centre, a new phase should now be opened during which a greater coordination and complementarity of action shall be achieved, based on a joint strategic vision.

In this sense, and with a view at the overall action of UNESCO in this area, the action of the centres shall be fully integrated within the other regional initiatives in the field of culture, with special reference to the new framework initiative “Culture: a Bridge to Development”, approved by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 36th session (November 2011), to “promote innovative and creative approaches to culture as a bridge to sustainable social, economic and human development”.

Acting as a special component of this flagship initiative, a programme entitled “Heritage and Dialogue” was also proposed in the UNESCO biennial programme for 2012-2013, intended to be initially focused on South-Eastern Europe and then possibly extended to other contexts. Building on the cohesive power of cultural heritage, both in its tangible and intangible dimensions, this programme will seek to develop innovative and creative approaches to heritage safeguarding and promotion and culture-sensitive development projects as powerful tools for the enhancement of dialogue in the region. Drawing upon UNESCO’s international expertise, capacities and network, the “Heritage and Dialogue” programme aims to bring together a broad spectrum of actors in the field of culture, including regional centres and category 2 centres under the auspices of UNESCO, in order to bring forth new opportunities for international cooperation in South-Eastern Europe.

Furthermore, coordination and integration of the centres’ action shall also be sought with regard to the other sub-regional cooperation initiatives and development programmes, with a special focus on the European integration process, and the identification of new funding opportunities.

The meeting will be composed of two sessions. During Session 1, the regional centres will give presentations on their structures, mission, thematic priorities and activities. During Session 2, representatives of multilateral and bilateral agencies, as well as of other potential partners, will address the overall framework of regional cooperation and explore opportunities for financing and partnerships.

Note : (1) See, in particular: Bucharest Declaration (2008) art. 9; Cetinje Declaration (2010) art. 7, and Cetinje Action Plan (2010) Objective B, measures 5-9; Belgrade declaration (2011) art. 3.

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