Katie Cammell: A Day in the Life of the WHC

Yesterday the World Heritage Committee met for the first session. Although the proceedings are livestreamed for those interested, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of the World Heritage Committee conference.

9.30am: We arrive at the Ritz-Carlton for the conference. There are two rooms full of pastries, little sandwiches, tea and coffee. Merekara and I grab some to go (one officer told us that this was okay, but it turns out that it was, in fact, not).

Merekara hiding her donut from the watchful eyes of the WHC officers...

Merekara hiding her donut from the watchful eyes of the WHC officers...

10am: The conference is supposed to start. The Chairperson bangs her gavel, and everyone ignores it.

10.15am: The conference actually starts.

10.15am-1pm: The committee members hear the evaluation reports from the advisory bodies and the World Heritage centre – basically, what they have been up to for the past year.  Once we have finished listening to the reports, the committee members, state parties, and NGO representatives share their opinions.  Some notable highlights include:

  1. Azerbaijan bravely soldiering on presenting their speech three minutes past the maximum time allotted, despite the best attempts of the musical interlude to stop them.
  2. Representatives of the Indigenous People’s Forum reminding the committee members that Indigenous people are present and that they should be specifically included in capacity-building activities.
  3. The Dame Maggie Smith impersonator translating the many, many speeches made by Cuba into our headsets.
Look at you go, Azerbaijan! Three minutes over and counting!

Look at you go, Azerbaijan! Three minutes over and counting!

1pm-3pm: During the lunch break, there are various side events for people to attend. We attended an event hosted by the advisory bodies (ICCROM, IUCN, and ICOMOS) about world heritage leadership and nature-culture linkages.  The advisory bodies presented their ground-breaking paradigm shift where there is a focus not just on the physical conservation of a site, but attention to its context (aka, how communities interact with these sites).  As a cultural history student, it seems fairly obvious to me that we should situate a heritage site within its broader context. But hey, at least they got there eventually.

3pm-6pm: The session begins again. The committee members take an hour to decide how best to word the discussions that happened this morning in the summary report. I start daydreaming about the leftover food that’s in our fridge back in the hotel room.

6pm-8pm: More side events! We attended the launch of the International Indigenous People’s Forum. They highlighted that world heritage activities have either a very positive or disproportionately negative impact on Indigenous people, and it is thus necessary to engage in consistent consultation with Indigenous peoples and ensure their involvement in the governance and management of the sites.

8pm: We head back to the hotel to try and get some rest before another full-on day tomorrow. I finally get to eat my leftovers, and it was worth the wait.

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on June 26, 2018 and filed under World Heritage 2018.