The 7th International Symposium of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) was held at Rhodes at the Marc de Montalembert Foundation, from the 23rd of September till the 26th. Held in collaboration with UNESCO, Cultural Olympiad as well as the Greek Foreign Ministry, it was attended by Mayors and city representatives, as well as 19 young people, all between the age of 18 and 20. The OWHC had asked mayors to select young people who would be assigned to projects which would help raise awareness about issues related to the preservation of heritage. The young participants who were chosen, indulged in a variety of activities to achieve this goal, which included everything fr.om making documentaries to creating map games with stickers for small children as well as participating in radio programs and much more.
The proceedings began with an opening speech by Evangelos Venizelos, the Culture Minister. Following which, Marianna Vardinoyianni, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, speaking on behalf of Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO General Director, spoke about how it is important that the world’s heritage be protected, which could only be done by moving out of the past and accepting new developments and values in modern cities. She further emphasized that the concept of mutual respect and collective conscience, is what changes the way we perceive the world, and this has come to symbolize the youth of today.
Also sharing their views and experiences were the young people who attended the Forum. They discussed the difficulties they faced and how eventually they turned it into success. This part of the forum was extremely entertaining, with people witnessing and participating in a lively exchange of thoughts and ideas. Even the presentations created by these young people were of a very high quality. This session ended with the conclusions derived from their experiences and views being presented to the mayors, decision makers and scientists also present at the forum, which was reciprocated and supported in full measure.
Some of the key points they put forward was the need to create proper channels which would allow smooth co-operation between the decision makers and the youth. They also voiced the requirement for specific reserve funds in the annual budgets of the municipalities, which would be used for young people’s activities in preserving heritage. “1 + 1 can make 3 if our endeavors are based on genuine partnership, instead of rivalry and isolation”, concluded Dagnija Baltina, a participant from Riga.
Sitting on the panel of this significant Forum were Jean-Paul Laller, Mayor of Quebec as well as founder of World Heritage Cities Organization, Yiannis Mahairidis, Dodecanese prefect and Giorgos Yiannopoulos, Mayor of Rhodes. In a very symbolic gesture the entire stage was decorated with olive branches, denoting world peace.