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The UNESCO Chair on Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage was founded in 2014 and his held by Professor Robin Coningham in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University. The Chair was founded with the aims of:
The Durham UNESCO Chair addresses this challenge by shaping debates on professional standards and responsibilities; legal and ethical codes and values; concepts of stewardship and custodianship; research ethics and illicit antiquities; and the social, ethical and economic impacts of the promotion of heritage, particularly at religious and pilgrimage sites.
The Chair is held by Professor Robin Coningham, and is supported by Dr Mark Manuel and Dr Christopher Davis in the Department of Archaeology. In addition, the Chair brings together academics from various departments and centres at Durham including Anthropology, History, Engineering, Philosophy, Museums and the Business School.
The UNESCO Chair aims to develop new guidelines and exemplar material for postgraduate education; devise benchmarks for the measuring social, ethical and economic impacts of Cultural Heritage; provide capacity building to heritage professionals and managers in South Asia and the UK through workshops and on-site training; create opportunities for postgraduate research and education in the UK; and generate networks of heritage professionals, academics and stakeholders.
The UNESCO Chair grew and developed out of the old Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage, which was originally an interdisciplinary research centre that focused upon ethical debates surrounding cultural heritage. CECH has since dissolved and its agenda continued and expanded through the work of the UNESCO Chair.
Cultural heritage and archaeology are drivers for Creative Economies and UNESCO’s 1972 Convention Guidelines recognises that their protection contributes to sustainable development. There is awareness that they play a unifying role in Post-Conflict responses but also that unethical or unbalanced promotion may alienate communities, generate conflict and the destruction of heritage.
UNESCO published ‘Creative Economy’ in 2013, highlighting heritage’s role as a local development driver. This relationship has been long recognised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank (Hampton 2005) and South Asia has benefitted from the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) investment in Buddhist pilgrimage. Facilitating sustainable tourism through infrastructure upgrade, ADB holds the premise that tourism “can create…economic opportunities, generate employment and incomes” and heritage can “contribute to mutual understanding and development of a stronger sense of community”. This is shared by the International Finance Corporation, whose 2013 Buddhist Circuit Strategy stressed that pilgrimage delivers “sustainable and inclusive economic growth” and “benefits reach deep into local households”. Neither identified methodologies for benefit measuring and, despite research (UNESCO 2013; El Beyrouthy and Tessler 2013; Rebanks 2009), there are no agreed toolkits for recording and comparing economic benefits.
Although heritage may benefit national economies, social benefits are less certain for the local communities - for example, in Nepal the Chitwan and Lumbini World Heritage Site development plans relocated entire villages (McLean 1999; Molesworth and Müller Boker 2005). Unethical heritage development alienates communities and generates conflict and the destruction of heritage (Coningham & Lewer 2019). Dynamics between local populations and heritage are key to successful management and the World Heritage Convention has modified its Guidelines to include community participation. UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity recognized culture as a right and many argue for transitions towards a human rights-based approach (Logan 2012). However, methodologies and toolkits for measuring and comparing social or ethical impacts are less developed than economic ones.
This UNESCO Chair’s aims to shape global academic, student and practitioner interfaces and extend bilateral collaborations between UNESCO, Higher Education Institutes, World Heritage Sites and Trusts. Through co-ordination of internships, visiting professorships, supervision and capacity building, particularly targeting gender equality, it strengthens interdisciplinary north-south-south exchanges and disseminate outcomes beyond the partnership through publications, workshops, shared toolkits and educational packages.
Our core objectives are to:
Our target beneficiaries are students, academics, heritage professionals and site managers, as well as pilgrims, tourists and visitors to World Heritage properties.