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UNESCO’s voice to be “heard publicly in Liverpool for the first time”

Local social enterprise will bring three UNESCO officials to the city for free seminar series in autumn 2017.

Residents of Liverpool are being urged to register for a series of seminars that according to organisers “will make UNESCO’s voice heard publicly in the city for the first time”. With Liverpool’s world heritage status at growing risk, the series aims to give the people of Liverpool the chance to find out more, and to hear UNESCO’s perspective on why Liverpool is on a par with world famous heritage sites such as the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis, and the Great Wall of China, as a site of “outstanding universal value”.

Organised by Engage Liverpool CIC, a social enterprise that seeks to make a positive contribution to the liveability of Liverpool City Centre and Waterfront, the seminar series is entitled “Liverpool UNESCO World Heritage Site – A Status worth fighting for?” and will bring heritage officials, including Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, UNESCO’s Chief of the Europe and North America Unit to venues within Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City – currently inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

The seminar series has been announced to coincide with the ICOMOS International Day for Monuments and Sites on Tuesday 18 April, to help raise awareness of the potential impact of the loss of Liverpool’s World Heritage status and the potential gains to be made from development and conservation working together.

Liverpool was inscribed as a WHS in 2004 covering six areas of Liverpool’s city centre and docklands. The award was made in recognition of the city’s global significance as one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries, and also for its part in the development of mass movements of people.

However, UNESCO and The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) have warned that redevelopment in the area – including the Liverpool Waters scheme – “would fundamentally adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property”. Liverpool is now one of only two endangered UNESCO sites in Europe.

Gerry Proctor, Chair of Engage Liverpool CIC said “It seems fair to say that UNESCO’s voice has never been properly heard in the city, except perhaps in negative ways. Had UNESCO come to speak to people in the intervening years then we might not have ended up with the debate being framed in an either/or binary position between economic development or heritage, civic growth or becoming a museum, progress or being held hostage to the past.”

“Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City has been declared to have features of outstanding universal value, which puts us in the Premier League of world cities. With the status under threat we are asking if we have sufficiently valued what being a UNESCO World Heritage Site confers.”

“Much of the debate around WHS status has been conducted mostly between officials which has meant in practice that during what has been termed ‘delicate negotiations’ citizens have in effect been side-lined. We’re creating a civic conversation that explores what World Heritage status is all about and what the value of it is, why there is a conflict between heritage and development in the city, and why should residents of the city region even care?”

Those wishing to register for the seminar series can do so at www.engageliverpool.com.