2017 | Dodatek Specjalny. Dziedzictwo w Polsce. | 11-15
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Polska wobec dziedzictwa wywiad z prof. dr hab. Jackiem Purchlą, przewodniczącym 41. sesji Komitetu Światowego Dziedzictwa UNESCO

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Poland and Heritage interview with Prof. Dr. Jacek Purchla, chairperson of the 41st session of World Heritage Committee
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What do you see as the contribution of Poland to the World Heritage Convention? It is hard to be a judge in one’s own case. It seems to me that the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Kraków will, in fact, provide the best summary of Poland’s contribution that has been made while carrying out its mandate. First of all, Poland actively participated in the drafting of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and ratified it as early as 1976. This clearly shows how important the Poles find both cultural heritage and its protection. The country’s considerable intellectual and conservation potential in this area has been reflected in the activity of Polish experts in archaeological and conservation missions to various parts of the world, especially the Middle and Far East, as well as Latin America. We are also ready to share our unique experience in reconstruction and restoration with the whole world. At the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee, Poland declared its readiness to organise a conference on the very subject in the near future. We pay special attention to actions in support of improving the process of implementing the Convention, which is why we have been particularly active in the Committee’s budget and operational guidelines working groups. Currently, Poland is chairing an intersessional ad hoc working group that examine matters related to Tentative Lists and sustainability of the World Heritage Fund, thus reinforcing cooperation between States Parties, UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies with a view of a better implementation of the World Heritage Convention. In 2012, Poland hosted the International World Heritage Expert Meeting on criterion (vi) and associated values. With the rapidly increasing significance of intangible heritage, I have personally paid a lot of attention to synergies between the cultural conventions, as well as to the work on mixed nominations, both promoted by UNESCO. Your personal contribution, via the International Cultural Centre in Kraków, has focused on European heritage – why is transnational collaboration so important? The International Cultural Centre (ICC) emerged from the specific atmosphere of the political overhaul at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. The change of 1989 was more than just a historic watershed that brought the period of the Cold War and division of Europe to an end. It also created some new opportunities for international cultural cooperation. The Centre inaugurated its activity in May 1991 during the symposium of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) held in Kraków. That was the first great meeting of the countries of the East and West after the fall of the Iron Curtain to be dedicated to cultural heritage, in which the notion of “our common heritage” became a keyword. The specific nature of Central Europe also means that its political borders changed much faster than its cultural ones. This is the issue of place, of memory, of identity. Indeed, in 1990 Poland had three neighbouring countries and none of them has survived to this day. Today, there are seven! At that time, the getting to know each other, the meeting with “the other”, the phenomenon of mutually competing memories, the discovery of the richness and heterogeneity of Central Europe, and the synergy brought about by sharing the experiences and best practices in the protection of our common heritage accompanied a retreat from our own “splendid isolation” after the difficult lesson of Communism. Today, the ICC is primarily a hub for interdisciplinary studies and international dialogue on the phenomenon of cultural heritage in Europe and the world. “Herito” quarterly published by the Centre (also in English) is the voice of Central Europe in matters of what is broadly construed as heritology, as well as a space for reflection on the place of cultural heritage in the contemporary world. Today, it would be difficult to imagine our international cooperation in the regional dimension alone. The best testimony to that are our publications, and our education and fellowship programmes. Over the period of twenty-five years, our 70 international education programmes have welcomed students from over 70 countries from all continents. The bibliography of our publications has exceeded 5,000 items and contains the names of 1,200 authors from all over the world. We find pleasure in sharing our experience and we continually learn from the best practices that others kindly share with us. Poland has a long history of heritage protection, and the 14 World Heritage sites in your country provide very varied insights into the heritage of humanity. Which best practice cases of heritage would you like to share? The Salt Mine in Wieliczka, near Kraków, which has been operating since the 13th century, was inscribed on the World Heritage List as far back as in 1978. The uniqueness of the subterranean labyrinth stretching over nine levels along 360 km (225 miles) of passageways is also a fruit of pioneering activity in the protection of this exquisite site of technological heritage and in the provision of access to this place to millions of tourists. Another World Heritage site, also situated near Kraków, is a group of wooden churches in the southern Małopolska Region. They are not only an example of the vernacular tradition of mediaeval church building in our region, but also a symbol of continuity and endurance. They are crucial for raising awareness among local communities about the need to protect cultural heritage. The pride that the parishioners in places such as the villages of Lipnica Murowana, Dębno Podhalańskie, and Sękowa take in having their small wooden churches on the UNESCO World Heritage List is a peculiar phenomenon, and so is some extraordinary dedication of these local communities to preserve their unique heritage that the world has now come to appreciate. For it is a fact that the use of social capital in creating, identifying and protecting cultural heritage is a process that is based on social links and collective memory, as well as on the reinforcement of the sense of community. A beautiful symbol of the protection of our cultural and religious diversity is found in the Churches of Peace of the Lutheran communities in Świdnica and Jawor that have been meticulously conserved. Two forums will take place before the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Kraków: the annual Forum of NGOs, as well the World Heritage Site Managers’ Forum. The latter is a new initiative launched by Poland. Beyond providing valuable networking opportunities, what are your expectations from these two forums? The meetings of NGOs accompanying the sessions of the World Heritage Committee are already becoming an established practice. The Forum of NGOs in Kraków should only reinforce this tradition. Heritage is people – heritage is us: its creators, interpreters, and users. Therefore, the Convention’s efficacy goes beyond the diligence of the governments and administrations implementing the Convention. The efficiency of our Convention in matters of protecting World Heritage sites is, to a great extent, a function of the social capital accumulated by none other than the non-governmental organisations. What is needed today is a good rapport between the Committee, as the guardian of the spirit and letter of the Convention, and the NGOs involved in the protection of the most precious treasures of our common heritage. I do hope that the Kraków meeting will bear fruit in the search for a better platform for this dialogue. I am also delighted that the first World Heritage Site Managers’ Forum will also be held in Kraków, my hometown. It will be hosted by the Mayor of Kraków. Kraków was the first historic urban complex inscribed on the World Heritage List as long ago as 1978. At least onethird of the sites on the List are historic centres of cities. Today, they are witnesses to a drastically intensifying clash between heritage and development, between the appetites of real estate developers and preservation of heritage. It is by no means a coincidence that the 2011 UNESCO General Conference adopted The Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscapes. These days, far more difficult than the inscription of new sites is the enforcement of Convention standards in matters related to the management of the inscribed sites, as well as the preservation of their integrity. Educating young people about heritage and how they can contribute to its conservation is increasingly important. Regional activities are held around the world, and a Youth Forum is organized before each World Heritage Committee session. How do you see this developing in the future? The essence and value of UNESCO, and, to me, the unique challenge facing the 41st session of the Committee in Kraków, lie in the fact that we go beyond the European framework and take a broader look at heritage issues, while searching for a denominator common to all continents for its interpretation, valuation, and protection. Therefore, I perceive the Youth Forum as an important element in the construction of a shared platform for a universal reading of the values ensconced in heritage. I would like to make the Kraków meeting more than just a discussion of procedures, today strongly submerged in red tape; it is a return to the roots since heritage belongs to us all. Education about heritage is the very foundation of its preservation for future generations. The Youth Forum should enable the youngest generation of heritage professionals to identify the most burning issues facing the States-Parties to the 1972 UNESCO Convention. Poland is the location of sites of memory, including the very first such site, the Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945). How can such sites make a unique contribution to World Heritage? The site of the Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as early as 1979. The camp was set up by the Nazi Third Reich on occupied Polish territories, similarly to other locations throughout Europe. The Committee, however, decided that it would be the only site of this type to be listed. The symbolic dimension of this decision was emphasized; one that to a certain extent was made on behalf of all other sites of genocide. Thus, the Polish state assumed a particular responsibility and has fulfilled its duty in an exemplary manner. The Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp is the place where nearly 1.5 million people, the great majority of whom were Jews, were exterminated. It is not only a symbol of the Holocaust, the horror of the World War II, and the brutal German occupation of Poland. It is a warning for all of humanity and a duty of shared remembrance. For heritage is, in fact, tantamount to our memory and our choice. The Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp is also a proof that the paradigms have shifted, and so has the manner of defining and using the records of the past for contemporary use. Heritage does not need to be beautiful! The role of memory becomes crucial today, and not only such criteria as truth, goodness, and beauty. Therefore, the following question should be posed: Is an encounter between the 1972 Convention and the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage really imminent?
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  • prof. dr hab., przewodniczący 41. sesji Komitetu Światowego Dziedzictwa UNESCO
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