Saving the World: Fifty Years of the Convention, Conservation, and Collaboration| Lynn Meskell, Claudia Liuzza
On November 16, 1945, forty-four nations gathered in London to forge an international body for educational and cultural cooperation under the aegis of the United Nations. Their project was no less than the intellectual and moral reconstruction of a world in ruins. UNESCO’s first decades were spent entreating the world to unite in conserving endangered marvels as a common patrimony. The managerial priorities of world-making took precedence, requiring a sophisticated bureaucracy that valorized scientific techniques as the primary means to ensure human progress and protect virtuous human endeavors.
UNESCO’s major contribution is generally considered to be pioneering international legal instruments such as the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Its legal framing, resting upon an assembly of States Parties, was premissed on the goodwill and civility of states, both to each other and to their citizens. High-profile international salvage missions simultaneously made material the idea of cooperation between nations and showcased UNESCO putting all its ideals into action. But this idea has a deeper history, starting in 1948 with the proposal for an expert committee tasked with preserving sites and monuments and the establishment of a fund to support that work. The fund was intended to provide financial assistance to endangered monuments of great cultural value. However, the Member States were not convinced and instead decided that particular preservation projects were to be considered and only when a nation petitioned UNESCO. Little did they anticipate the frequency and scale of future requests.
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