Across the world, heritage is being placed under increasing stress as globalization accelerates, tourism diversifies, cultural diversity is eroded, the environment changes, and development pressure increase. However, heritage is powerful. The material objects and traces created by past and present people, and the social memory that is woven around them, anchors individual people and their memories to broader, societal understandings of the past. These cultural objects are embedded in environments that have their own histories and trajectories and within the context of a global environmental crisis that disproportionally affects Indigenous communities. In an increasingly fragmented world, heritage can strengthen a sense of community by fortifying its relationship to place. It can boost a regional economy through sustainable tourism. Moreover, heritage is an important resource for fostering cultural resilience, reducing disaster risk, and supporting social cohesion.
Since the 1970s, sustainable development was viewed through an environmental lens, usually in terms of environmental degradation. However, there is a sea change in relation to the way in which cultural heritage is envisaged in this process. In 2013, UNESCO convened the Culture: Key to Sustainable Development international conference in Hangzhou, China. Since then, momentum has built. UNESCO (2015) outlines the challenge in Introducing Cultural Heritage into the Sustainable Development Agenda:
The cultural heritage has been absent from the sustainable development debate despite its crucial importance to societies and the wide acknowledgment of its importance at national level … Globalization, urbanization and climate change can threaten the cultural heritage and weaken cultural diversity. What measures are needed to promote the safeguarding of the cultural heritage in the global development agenda? What are the concrete actions that need to be taken in order to integrate cultural heritage conservation and promotion into the sustainable development debate? (UNESCO 2015).
A watershed occurred when the Sustainable Development Goals came into effect in January 2016. The 17 goals that were identified are supported by 169 targets. While cultural heritage was not identified as a specific goal, it can be used to further all 17 goals.
Prof. Dr. Claire Smith
Dr. Lilia Lucia Lizama
Dr. Israel Herrera
Dr. Alok Kumar Kanungo
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