On March 27-28, the Belarus Committee of ICOMOS and the INGO EuroBelarus held an online expert workshop on expanding opportunities for community participation in the governance of historical and cultural heritage.

The workshop was the first in a series of events entitled “The Right to Heritage”, scheduled for the spring-summer of 2020 and aimed at discussion of the actual possibilities and prospects of civic participation in heritage governance.

The 18 experts and public activists gathered at the workshop jointly analyzed the existing opportunities in Belarus for participating in the heritage governance by professional local and entrepreneurial communities.

The participants considered the prospects of adopting in Belarus the principles laid down by the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Importance of Cultural Heritage for Society, 2005 (Faro Convention). Participatory governance approaches to heritage have been developed in many countries of Western Europe and today are a kind of European standard. Belarus is not a party to the Convention, however, these approaches, which determine the trends in good governance of the historical and cultural heritage today, can be applied in our practice. How exactly – it was proposed to find out.

On the first day of the online seminar, Stsiapan Stureika, the head of the Belarus ICOMOS, compared two discourses of heritage – classic and new ones – that coexist in the discussion of heritage and are transformed into actions. So, for example, national rhetoric is supplemented by the priority of the local significance of the heritage. Decisions on the restoration of monuments, according to the new discourse, are made not only because of the need for conservation, but with an orientation on their socio-economic potential. From a purely professional field, protection and revitalization of cultural heritage is turning into a zone of cooperation for a wide range of parties involved.

When discussing ways to improve the heritage governance situation in Belarus, the participants noted the importance of collecting and popularizing successful cases of participation of local initiatives and communities, the challenge of increased requirements for their competencies, and the need to develop a qualified customer as a public institute, as well as developing methods for overcoming conflicts related to heritage.

To continue the conversation, the Belarusian Committee of ICOMOS and INGO EuroBelarus plan to systematize the discussion materials and propose new events on this topic.

So, on June 19-20, the conference entitled “The Right to Heritage and the State List of Historical and Cultural Values” is planned. A collection of cases on the effectiveness of the list as a tool will also be announced.

Stay tuned for updates on the conference website and the organizers’ Facebook pages.

The right to heritage according to the standards of the Faro Convention: is it possible in Belarus?