Opening up to Civil Society

One of the increasingly promoted principles of UNESCO’s heritage programs is the emphasis on community participation. However, the convention’s governance system is centered on State Parties interaction and decision-making and UNESCO is mandated to work with state institution and strengthen institutional building on national level. This system limits the civil society participation which plays a fundamental role in cultural and natural heritage conservation.

This theme revisits the old and new meanings of civil society, its participation in heritage governance and its role in strengthening democratic governance of heritage which would make the process of heritage management more participatory, consultative, and transparent. The main question that this theme addresses is: How can the decision-making system and the management of the Convention be democratised to reflect fundamental and inclusive change?


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    Sibongile Masuku, Coordinator

    Sibongile Masuku, Coordinator

    Sol Plaatje University

    Sibongile Masuku, PhD is a lecturer for Heritage Studies at Sol Plaatje University in South Africa. She is an environmental and heritage education specialist having headed the South African Heritage Resources Agency from 2009-2012 and Director for Heritage in the National Department of Arts and Culture. Her career spans over a decade working within the people and parks contexts as a social ecologist. She contributed to the conceptualization of the African World Heritage Fund and partakes in working groups for the African Union on heritage related frameworks to support the continent on preservation initiatives.

    Biljana Volcevska, Convener

    Biljana Volcevska, Convener

    Forum Civil Peace Service

    Biljana currently works as a project manager at Forum Civil Peace Service ( in North Macedonia and as project coordinator for CIE - Center for International Heritage Activities, The Netherlands. Biljana is a PhD student at ICON – Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University and her current research investigates the potential of memory narratives and heritage production in bringing social and political change in society on one side and the social and civil movements that emerge as a reaction to oppressive cultural politics, on the other. Biljana holds a MA in World Heritage Studies and prior to beginning the PhD program Biljana worked as a Program Coordinator of the Dutch program in Afghanistan for the rehabilitation of the Afghan National Museum.

    Affiliated institute