Evidence based heritage policies for inclusive societies

The way in which heritage – tangible, intangible, documentary  is preserved and interpreted often plays a key role in the definition of identities and in social and political conflicts. Understanding this role is essential for policies aiming to prevent conflict and exclusion and to promote social cohesion. It also strengthens the focus on the need to protect heritage threatened by human activity.

Research for policy

Within the field of social sciences and humanities UNESCO focuses on the use of research for promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. That is a subject of great actuality, both concerning the relations between parts of the world (for instance between the Middle East and Europe) as when it comes to the tensions within societies. It is important that governance and policy insights are deepened in interaction with insights from the social sciences and humanities. 

How can (cultural) heritage be used to promote social cohesion? What are best and worst practices? Much research has been done on this issue. However, these findings are often absent from the political debate and politicians often seem unprepared to react on sensitive issues. 

Toolbox for policy makers

Recently the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO and the Faculty of archaeology (Leiden University) with support of the Leiden University Fund invited 50 experts from three regions − (i) the Caribbean, (ii) the Balkans and Anatolia and (iii) Western Europe  with the objective of gathering state of the art academic input and developing concrete policy recommendations addressing UNESCO, as well as Dutch and European policy makers about heritage and its role for inclusive societies. The recommendations will be made in the form of a report to be published in the summer of 2015. The publication can not only serve as a toolbox for policy makers but also as a legitimate instrument of empowerment for various actors from a wider audience.

Participants of the expert meeting about heritage and inclusive societies.

Best and worst practices

On the first day four speakers gave the following presentations:

‘Exploring contrasting perceptions in Greek-Turkish relations: the genesis of a documentary, the reactions of the audience and some lessons learned’ - By Hercules Millas, Political scientist (PhD), based on the documentary ‘The Other Town’. 

Can there be a diversity of memory that strengthens rather than undermines cohesion?’ – By Laurent Licata, Université Libre de Bruxelles.

When do heritage institutions such as museums and festival succeed to increase people’s understanding of each other? – By Roberto Valcarcel Rojas, Faculty of Archaeology Leiden

How heritage can change: the role of media’ – By Ann Rigney, Utrecht University 

The participants also discussed a Dutch case of contested heritage when visiting the Westfries Museum in Hoorn. What are best (and worst) practices to deal with heritage of the Golden age? What is the space given to contestation (example of the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen)? What can be the role of a museum?

On the second day of the meeting, the experts addressed six issues that presumably affect the inclusiveness of heritage: education, legislation, (social) media, international community, tourism and civil society. Based on cases brought in by the participants, the meeting ended by drawing policy recommendations. 

The first (draft) version of the report will be available in the summer of 2015.


Om mondiale problemen aan te pakken is wetenschappelijke samenwerking van groot belang. Unesco stimuleert een gezamenlijke aanpak van onderwerpen als klimaatverandering, ethiek, armoede en natuurrampen. Als enige organisatie binnen de VN met een mandaat voor wetenschap stimuleert zij wetenschappelijke samenwerking over de grenzen van disciplines en landen heen.

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