SHARING HERITAGE

Anita Bergenstråhle-Lind/Key-note speech Potsdam BSSSC Conference, 21st of September 2017.

Sharing heritage

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sharing Heritage is the title of my speech. I like the title because Cooperation is always about sharing something with someone else, values for example.

As a common ground for further discussions, about what is going on in the cultural heritage area, the Baltic Region Heritage Committee and about the importance of cooperation between Regions. I will start by a definition.

Definition of Cultural heritage

Mind you, Cultural heritage is far broader than the target area of the EUSBSR Policy Area Culture. Cultural heritage is a part of almost all political areas in the EU; for example regional policy, agriculture, common market and environment. It is about planning the future together with the past. Actually, it is about Cohesion and Togetherness, the theme of this conference. Cultural heritage management is about Cooperation within the Council of Europe, networking in the EU and cooperation between states and Regions.

There are many ways of describing cultural heritage. The concept is constantly evolving in relation to institutional practices, research and developments in society in general. Each Member State has a different definition of heritage within its own legislation.

Here I use the following definition:
“Cultural heritage consists of the resources inherited from the past in all forms and aspects – tangible, intangible and digital (both digital and digitized), including monuments, sites, landscapes, skills, practices, knowledge and expressions of human creativity as well as collections conserved and managed by public and private bodies such as museums, libraries and archives. It originates from the interaction between people and places through time and it is constantly evolving.” Remember that history is change. Today a lot of this change is generated in the development and cooperation between the Regions.

Cultural heritage in focus right now

There are lots of things happening in the area of cultural heritage right now. Let me give you some examples.

    • The United Nations new sustainable development goal Agenda 2030 (no 11.4) states that it is important to strengthen the efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural (and natural) heritage.
    • The EUSBR – European Union´s Baltic Sea strategy is about joint problem-solving and tackles joint challenges such as unwanted environmental changes. It is about taking advantage of the opportunities that greater cooperation provides. The potential of cultural heritage is perceived as a common resource.
    • The EU strategy for international cultural relations focuses on three main objectives:
      – Supporting culture as an engine for social and economic development (p.7)
      – Promoting intercultural dialogue and the role of culture for peaceful inter-community relations (p.10) and
      – Reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage (p.11)
    • The Council of Europe has recently finalized a European Heritage strategy. This strategy redefines the place and role of cultural heritage in Europe and provides guidelines to promote good governance and participation in heritage identification and management, and disseminate innovative approaches to improving the environment and quality of life of European citizens.
    • And, last but not least, September 2016 the European Commission has put forward a proposal to the European Parliament and Council to designate 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH). In May this year the Council took the final decision. The aim is to highlight the role of Europe’s cultural heritage in fostering a shared sense of history and cohesion.
      As you can see cultural heritage plays an important role in sustainable development and inter-regional relations. Seldom have so many transnational bodies been so united.

About the Baltic Region Heritage Committee (BRHC)

The countries in the Baltic Sea Region are all diverse with respect to their rich variety of cultures, languages and histories. But at the same time the countries’geographical position around the Baltic Sea, forming a region in the northern part of Europe, also contributes to this region’s shared sense of regional cohesion. As we share common histories we can also share a common understanding of the challenges of today. In the area of cultural heritage we therefore have the capacity to bring forward a mutual understanding in a field of great importance for the future.

The Baltic Region Heritage Committee (BRHC) was established in 1998 in the geographical framework of the Council of the Baltic Sea, involving also Norway and Island. BRHC is composed by nominated representatives of state authorities in charge of national heritage management in ten countries. The activities focus both on the preservation of cultural heritage and on its sustainable management and development. The BRHC promotes the potential of cultural heritage as a strategic resource for developing the Baltic Sea Region.

The thematic Working groups and their work, identified by the Committee, form an essential part of regional activities on cultural heritage. The respective experts in the WG´s are nominated for practical collaboration in their field. We have got three active WG´s, namely on coastal heritage; on underwater heritage and on 20th century built heritage. Additional thematic network and seminars complete the regional approaches. And now we are building a Network with researchers in the region.

Since 2003 the BRHC has arranged regional Cultural Heritage Forums. The latest one was arranged in Kiel in September 2016 – From postwar to Postmodern.
During the Swedish chairmanship of the Baltic Region Heritage Committee between July 2016 and June 2018 we are highlighting the 20th Century Heritage, communication and research.
The Swedish National Heritage Board, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, serves since the 17th century as Sweden’s central administrative agency in the area of cultural heritage. The Swedish Cultural Environment Act states that the cultural environment is everyone’s responsibility. The Swedish Cultural Environment Act states that “It is a national concern to protect and care for our cultural environment. Responsibility for this is shared by all.” The aim of cultural heritage management in Sweden is to enable the preservation, use, access and development in a sustainable society.

Regionalisation, cohesion and cultural heritage

Regionalisation is not only about governance, efficiency or democracy, it’s about trust and confidence between the citizens and the public authorities and the politicians. Your role as politicians is very important when it comes to facing some of the hardest challenges since the European Union´s creation. The founding principles of cooperation seem less and less obvious to the citizens. The impulse for breaking down boundaries has been replaced by a wave of protectionism and nationalism. Walls are being built instead of being torn down. Equality is threatened by populism. And above all, citizens tend to loose trust in their leaders and their decisions.

Cultural heritage is everywhere in our daily life. The cultural heritage management always has a close relationship to the existing society and its needs. It is a source of knowledge, education and experiences that contribute to the understanding of our place in time. And it is contributing to a sustainable development. Cultural heritage is a resource for the whole of society.
But we have to beware of political forces using it for populistic means. Cultural heritage can be used both to divide and unite. It´s neither good, nor bad and can be used for manipulating reasons.
The theme of this conference Cohesion = Togetherness is a very good basis for cooperation between the countries and the Regions around the Baltic Sea. We are neighbors and we want togetherness and close cooperation between countries and regions to get the Cohesion that we really need, especially in a time of growing protectionism and nationalism.

It is important that the cultural heritage management of the future does not focus on differences between people and on boundaries between different groups. In an inclusive society people, irrespective of background, feel trust for each other, engage in democratic processes and feel that they have rights to utilise and an obligation to contribute to the collective resources of society. This creates the experience of a shared future. At the same time there is scope for challenging and contrasting opinions and values.

Thanks for inviting me and I wish you a fruitful conference.