A new book by Lynn Meskel discusses how the original mission of the Unesco World Heritage list has its focus distorted from conservation and preservation to tourism and economic benefits. The book is called A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace
Created in 1946 to help establish peace through international cooperation in a world ravaged by two colossal wars, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hoped to change the “minds of men and women,” as its constitution says.
The agency aimed to achieve that mission through education, cultural exchange and conservation of heritage sites.
But that utopian ambition has gotten lost, according to Stanford anthropology Professor Lynn Meskell, who has spent the last eight years researching the history of the organization and its World Heritage program.
Today, most countries seem to care more about getting their historic sites onto the World Heritage List in order to benefit from UNESCO’s brand rather than discuss conservation and preservation, Meskell said.