As a legacy left to us by previous generations, cultural heritage is a resource that those living in present times have the responsibility to cherish. The responsibility also is transmitted to the generations to come, so that they can also benefit from it. Youth plays a key role in this process and UNESCO is committed to empowering young individuals to increase their awareness and involvement in protecting their heritage. When a young Italian student contacted us to learn about UNESCO and the role it plays in protecting cultural and natural heritage, we welcomed the opportunity to share our practices on this subject.
14-year-old Vittoria Lorusso from Trentino, Val di Fassa, paid a visit to UNESCO Regional Bureau for Culture and Science in Europe to learn about UNESCO, its mission and its mandate, with a special interest on World Heritage, in order to prepare a presentation for her final secondary school exam. She met and spoke with Matteo Rosati, Programme Officer for Culture, who presented the Organization’s structure, its unique role in strengthening the foundations of lasting peace and sustainable development, and its various international agreements in the field of culture, including the World Heritage Convention.
Vittoria demonstrated a praiseworthy level of curiosity and awareness, asking pertinent questions and taking notes studiously. Following her visit to the UNESCO Regional Bureau, Vittoria went on to compile an impressive presentation on World Heritage, especially focusing on Italy and her region, making best use of the information and online resources she had gathered during the meeting with Matteo Rosati.
“The time spent at UNESCO has flown. I was so excited, but at the same time I had such adrenaline inside me that I had no way to distract myself, living up to that moment to the last detail.”, Vittoria wrote in the board. “Only when I left the office, when my mother congratulated me, on the one hand I relaxed and on the other I thought back to the great event I had just experienced, feeling privileged. In the future I hope to be able to acquire high skills too, necessary to be part of similar associations.”
For a number of years, the lower secondary Ladin School of Campitello di Fassa has involved all teachers and students in creating, material for an exhibition to display during an open house day. In the previous two years, it focused on minorities and sustainable mobility; this year, the school chose to focus on UNESCO and World Heritage, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the inscription of “The Dolomites” on the World Heritage List.
As part of this UNESCO Day, Vittoria delivered her presentation in front of her classmates and teacher. The Day included a series of events held by her school to celebrate the UNESCO’s achievements and teach students about its values and ideals.
It was a great success and both students and teachers developed a greater understanding of UNESCO and its mission. Particular attention was paid to the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the most widely adopted international instrument for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage.
The discussion about World Heritage sites included the history and traditions of the Trentino Alto Adige and other cultures, ecology and the importance of protecting biodiversity. Trentino Alto Adige is home to some components of “The Dolomites”, a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2009.
Ledro Alps and Judicaria, located in the Trento region between “The Dolomites” World Heritage Site and Lake Garda, is a Biosphere Reserve representative of the southern slopes of the central-eastern Alps and comprises a variety of habitats including Alpine meadows, forest, grasslands and moorlands, alternating with traditional crops. Part of the same area is also designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Awareness was raised about the threats facing the sites and learn how the community works together to protect, manage and transmit our common heritage. Most importantly, this UNESCO Day demonstrated how young people can contribute to heritage conservation and become involved in the process.
UNESCO applauds and encourages young people for taking the initiative to be part of the Organization’s work. Young people have the creativity, the potential and the capacity to bring about – for themselves, for their societies, and for the rest of the world.
Young people are vital components in finding solutions to the issues faced by the world today. Their energy and leadership is demonstrated in different spheres across the earth, and it is important to engage them in social development themselves and to be supported in this work by their societies.