Delhi Declaration on Heritage and Democracy

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19th triennial General Assembly of International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) was held at New Delhi.

The Indian National Committee of ICOMOS hosted this General Assembly. The ICOMOS General Assembly, organized for the first time in India was attended by nearly 900 professionals from more than 80 countries.

The theme of the symposium in the assembly ‘Heritage & Democracy’ organized in the largest democracy of the world, explored inclusive models for cultural heritage in a world of multiple stakeholders, recognizing the richness in cultural diversity at both local and global level.

The other theme which has been deliberated upon is the Culture-Nature journey by the multiple disciplines of practitioners, academia and policy makers to develop sustainable models for development.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a professional association that works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world. Now headquartered in Paris, ICOMOS was founded in 1965 in Warsaw as a result of the Venice Charter of 1964, and offers advice to UNESCO on World Heritage Sites.

Government of India has supported this very ambitious initiative of the ICOMOS India as a host of the General Assembly through the engagement of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Culture, the Archaeological Survey of India and Wild Life Institute of India.

The works of these Ministries directly impact cultural and natural heritage of the country as they protect, conserve and manage natural and cultural heritage as well as develop policy and schemes for development in historic urban areas.

The state governments, such as the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha and Bihar too have supported this initiative with generous support.

The ‘Delhi Declaration on Heritage and Democracy’ passed in the assembly emphasized the understanding that people’s perspective is central to heritage. It further reinforced that heritage is a fundamental right and responsibility of all and Development Initiatives should include conservation objectives and ensure that the significance, authenticity and the values of a heritage resource are protected. It said that heritage is a resource and should be managed in a way that its authenticity and integrity is maintained and all cultural identities must be respected.

The declaration said that ensuring continuity of living heritage is a prerequisite for sustainable development and legislative protection of heritage is the responsibility of all levels of government. It said that recognition and support must be given to persons who embody traditional cultural knowledge.

Development Initiatives should include conservation objectives and ensure that the significance, authenticity and the values of a heritage resource are protected. The Assembly declared that ethical principles have to be developed for heritage.

Cultural identities should not be compromised by uniform and insensitive planning. Collection and dissemination of information related to a heritage resource must be done in a transparent manner, using digital technologies by governments and institutions.

Shri Mahesh Sharma awarded the Gazzola Prize of the 19th General Assembly of ICOMOS to Professor Saleh Lamei Mostafa (Egypt) for his contribution in the fields of engineering, architecture and archaeology.

Honorary membership was conferred by the General Assembly to Architect Salvador Aceves Garcia (Mexico), Professor Mario Mendonca De Oliveira (Brazil), Blanca Niño Norton (Guatemala), Professor Dr Leelananda Prematilleke (Sri Lanka), Professor Dr Isabel Rigol Savio (Cuba) and Leo Van Nispen Tot Sevenaer (Netherlands).

ICOMOS is a partner in the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), which works to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural disasters.

The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) was founded in 1996 “to work to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural disasters”. It has been described as the “Cultural Red Cross”, and its name derives from the usage of the blue shield as specified in the 1954 Hague Convention on Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict.

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