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Culture and cultural heritage should become the humanist agenda of Europe

"Culture and cultural heritage should become the humanist agenda of Europe united by European values," was the main message of the two-day international conference entitled The Right to Heritage as a Catalyst for Sustainable Development, which concluded on 12 September 2021.

Speakers, lecturers and moderators at the conference were experts and representatives of EU member states, European institutions and world governmental and non-governmental organisations. The audience was addressed by Slovenian Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti and European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel.

Acting Director-General of the Cultural Heritage Directorate of the Ministry of Culture Jelka Pirkovič explained that the aim of the conference was not to answer every question but to shed light on the issues, as indicated by the title of the conference. The speakers presented the two main conference topics – the right to heritage and sustainable development – in the context of how important cultural heritage is for today's society and how it can contribute to sustainable development. As an open dialogue is the only way to adequately define a problem, the organisers of the conference scheduled a discussion after each panel and included three small-group workshops in the conference programme.

The organisers summarised the most important messages of the two-day discussions and specific cases into the following four ideas: 

"We perceive the right to heritage comprehensively, as it is an indispensable part of the right of every person to participate in cultural life. It is contained in the right to knowledge, expression, creativity and the enjoyment of values reflected in heritage diversity and the quality of our living environment."

"The heritage so perceived is an equally important resource for the future of humanity as natural resources and biodiversity. Heritage is a source of knowledge about nature and how humans can treat it with care. We must step up the training of all stakeholders and strengthen the participatory tools to be able to plan and monitor sustainable development by taking into account our heritage and enriching it."

"Heritage as a part of a good-quality living environment is an inspiration for creating more understandable and attractive future architectural, urbanistic and design solutions, which, if they pass the test of time, will be our future heritage."

"Above all, heritage is part of our humanist tradition. Therefore, our main message is the following: culture and cultural heritage should become the humanist agenda of Europe united by European values."

The conference was organised by the Ministry of Culture as part of the programme of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union. Due to the worsening of the epidemic situation, it was held virtually. It was attended by 120 participants.