Facilitation of a workshop to review the future of the World Heritage Convention

UNESCOContext: The World Heritage Convention is perhaps the best known responsibility of UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. 190 countries are party to the Convention which aims to protect the World’s most precious cultural and natural assets. In 2009 the World Heritage Committee determined that it would be timely to reflect on the future of the World Heritage Convention, what it was trying to achieve, and how it was being put into practice.

What we did: Carolyn Peterken worked with the Secretariat of the World Heritage Committee to design a large group process that would facilitate discussion and debate around the core issues of the values and image of the Convention, the balance between conservation and sustainable development, and the World Heritage system. She then led a team of three facilitators to manage the process, which involved around 200 representatives of States Parties from around the World attending a three day workshop in Paris. The process included plenary presentations on each of the three discussion points, facilitated discussions in smaller working groups, and presentation of the working group conclusions back to the plenary, and was made all the more challenging by the diversity of the participants, and the need to run sessions bilingually in English and French.

What we learnt: large group processes need careful planning, sound preparation, and clear process. The success of this workshop depended on good briefing of the team of facilitators, and clear and simple questions to guide discussion in each working group. The facilitators were all highly skilled, and able to use their expertise to keep discussions on track, to ensure that everyone in the room had the opportunity for their voice to be heard, and to draw out key points from the discussions as a summary at the end of each working group session. They debriefed between sessions and adapted processes as the workshop progressed in response to emerging issues.