The 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO

The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO was held in Baku (Azerbaijan) from June 30 to July 4, 2019. Every year, this global event brings together all of the State Parties to the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, as well as relevant international and non-governmental organizations, scientists, and experts in the field. 

Each session of the Committee reviews reports on the state of conservation for the World Heritage properties, decides on the induction of new cultural and natural sites into the World Heritage List, and considers other issues related to the Convention’s implementation.

In 2019, over 2,500 representatives from more than 180 countries gathered together at the Baku Congress Centre, the largest multi-­functional complex in the Caucasus. The excellent arrangements made to organize this significant international event are worth noting. These include well thought-out business and cultural programs, as well as Azerbaijan’s custom of hospitality, which left a great impression on all the participants.

The colorful and memorable opening ceremony gave the guests an opportunity to enjoy the richness of the country’s intangible cultural legacy, and the concert by several of Azerbaijan’s masters of arts left no one indifferent.  

One of the core issues attracting the keen interest of the international community during the annual sessions of the World Heritage Committee is the induction of new sites into the World Heritage List. This event is a matter of great importance for each State Party to the 1972 Convention. As a rule, considerable human and material resour­ces are involved in the processes of preparing the nomination dossiers for the potential sites, and ensuring methodological support throughout the procedure of entering the prestigious international list. 

The World Heritage List has expanded to include 29 new properties, each presenting great value for mankind. Among them are 24 cultural and 4 natural sites, as well as one mixed landmark. Apart from that, a significant boundary modification for one of the properties was approved. All of these accomplishments make up the practical outcomes of the session held in Baku.

The Committee inducted the nominated Russian site “Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture” into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The property comprises 10 unique churches of medieval Russia from the 12th to early 17th centuries. These are masterpieces of Pskov architecture, which have had a profound impact on the development of architecture not only in Russia, but also abroad.

The Committee for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of the Pskov Region and the Institute of Cultural and Natural Heri­tage named after Dmitry Likhachev had been working on the nomination since 2015. The Institute, with the assistance of specialists from Pskov, spent two years preparing an updated dossier and management plan for the site in accordance with the recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. In addition, the Institute conducted a large-scale study at the request of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)  to determine the typological and decorative features of the Pskov architectural school.

On the sidelines, copies of unique petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea made on black rice paper by the artist Svetlana Georgievskaya were displayed at an exhibition organized by the Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Karelia. 

On the eve of the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee, the capital of Azerbaijan hosted two international forums. The UNESCO World Heritage Young Professionals Forum, which ran from June 24 to July 2, gathered 30 young professionals from around the world. The 3th World Heritage Site Managers Forum took place from June 26 to July 4. It served as a venue for dialogue on the national cultural and historical heritage development and promotion for 60 representatives from 41 countries.

Young specialists addressed the global cultural heritage preservation and management challenges of the 21st century, and studied the use of best practices for the protection of Azerbaijan’s cultural legacy through multiple round-tables, discussions, and lectures by UNESCO’s leading experts in the field.

Lyudmila Buzina, Deputy Head of World Heritage and International Communication Department of the The Heritage Institute, participated in the Forum. On the opening day, she delivered a presentation devoted to the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Russia. She spoke on the subject of conservation techniques, and provided an overview of the Institute’s acti­vities in the field of promoting Russian nominations in the international arena. 

Within the framework of the Forum, the Youth Model Simulation of the World Heritage Committee was also held. During the event, these young professionals discussed the state of conservation of a hypothetical World Heritage site subjected to the challenges of the contemporary world. Lyudmila Buzina was honored to serve as the Chair of the Committee and moderate the international meeting.  

The participants culminated their work in the formation of a Declaration, which was presented at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee. The Declaration addresses the impacts of urban development on cultu­ral heritage, the conservation of cultural landscapes, and the promotion of intangible heritage. 

Lyudmila Buzina, Institute of Cultural and Natural Heritage named after Dmitry Likhachev