(World) Heritage sites as ambassadors for peace


Presented by Peter Stone, Chair, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

Start Date

7th Aug 2018 6:00pm

End Date

7th Aug 2018 7:30pm


Centenary Lecture Theatre, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact Information

No RSVP required - Enquiries: or 0428245731

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was founded immediately following the horrors of the Second World War in 1945. The Preamble to UNESCO’s Constitution declares that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". Over the years this fundamental raison d’ĂȘtre appears to have been somewhat lost as UNESCO, understandably, has been staffed by some of the world’s leading experts in their primary fields of science, education, and culture (but not peace).

It could be argued that everything UNESCO does should be based around this concept and recently the UNESCO web-site has introduced the strap-line of: ‘building peace in the minds of men and women’. However, there is a significant difference between a web-site strap-line and action on the ground. It is probably true to say that none of UNESCO’s cultural conventions prioritise, or actually even mention, this raison d’ĂȘtre.

It is frequently said that UNESCO’s most successful Convention is the 1972 ‘Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’. The Convention has 192 States Parties (more than any other cultural convention) and there are now 1,052 World Heritage sites spread across the world. However, very few of these acknowledge the link to UNESCO (most only show the World Heritage emblem with no explanation of its meaning) and fewer (any?) emphasise the importance of peace to UNESCO’s activities. Simply put, the interpretation at a World Heritage site dating from the Roman period is all about the Romans; and for a Han Dynasty site is all about the Han Dynasty etc.

In the late 1990s the World Heritage in Young Hands project incorporated peace as one of its main strands. Little has been done since. There is a massive opportunity to mobilise these 1,052 sites as ‘ambassadors for peace’. Why is no-one talking about this..?

Peter Stone is currently the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at the University of Newcastle, UK - the only such Chair in the world. He is Chair of the UK Committee of the Blue Shield and Vice President of Blue Shield International. The Blue Shield is the international NGO created in 1996 to advise UNESCO on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict. Peter was previously Head of the School of Arts and Cultures and Professor of Heritage Studies in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle. Before joining Newcastle he had worked for English Heritage, as a field archaeologist, and history teacher.

In 2003 Peter was advisor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence regarding the identification and protection of the archaeological cultural heritage in Iraq. He has remained active in working with the military to refine attitudes and develop processes for the better protection of cultural property in times of conflict. He has written extensively on this topic including co-editing, with Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly, The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq (2008) and editing Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military (2011). His article ‘The 4 Tier approach’ led directly to the establishment of a Joint Service Cultural Property Protection Unit in UK forces to become operational in 2019/20.

Peter was awarded an OBE in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to heritage education.