European Heritage Hub Champions Culture-based Climate Action and EU / Western Balkans Integration at Delphi Economic Forum 2024 

The 9th Annual Meeting of the Delphi Economic Forum was held from 10 – 13 April 2024 in the historic town of Delphi, Greece. Under the Patronage of H.E. Ms. Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the President of the Hellenic Republic, the four-day Forum brought together global leaders from politics, business, diplomacy, and civil society from all over the world.

Structured around six pivotal themes – Geopolitics, the Planet, Sustainable Economy & Finance, Global Future, Education, and People – the Forum saw many high-profile speeches, roundtable discussions, and debates. Along with the valuable networking opportunities, the event allowed attendees to engage in dialogue aimed at igniting change and translating ideas into tangible action.

Partners of the European Heritage Hub – Europa Nostra and Elliniki Etairia (ELLET) – co-hosted five events at the Delphi Economic Forum, two of which were under the framework of the Hub.

From COP28 to COP29 and beyond: Putting culture front and centre 

The first session took place on 11 April and centred around the Global Call to Action for Culture-Based Climate Action, launched by civil society ahead of COP 28 in Dubai, and the subsequent historic launch of the related Group of Friends during a Ministerial meeting chaired by the UAE and Brazil. The panel convened global and European champions of culture-based climate action, aiming to build momentum for the formal recognition of the vital role of culture, cultural heritage, and ancestral intelligence for more effective climate action at COP 29 in Baku (Azerbaijan) and COP 30 in Bélem (Brazil).

HRH Princess Dana Firas, Special Envoy of the Climate Heritage Network, Vice-President of ICOMOS, and President of the Petra National Trust (Jordan), highlighted the significant momentum generated at COP28 through the establishment of the Group of Friends, dedicated to advancing a Joint Work Decision for the upcoming global climate conference. “COP 29 in Baku can be groundbreaking by ensuring that its formal decision includes culture-based climate action with practical actions and investments,” she stated.

The Hellenic Republic was among the over 30 Ministers or government representatives that attended the historic inaugural meeting of the Group of Friends, recognising the key role of culture for transformative climate action. During the session at the Forum, Christos Dimas, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Hellenic Republic, reaffirmed their commitment: “Culture for climate action has been underused by the global community in the last decade, although it can play a very important role in passing messages to our society and in shifting the paradigm”.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra and Leader of the European Heritage Hub, applauded the progress made in recent years for the due recognition of culture’s potential to reach sustainability and climate action goals, and called for full integration of heritage in climate action: “I wish that we all take along the spirit of Delphi and Apollo at COP 29. Culture-based climate action brings better quality of life, harmony between communities and with nature”.

Looking to the future, Fariz Rzayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, the host of the upcoming COP 29 in November 2024, expressed the government’s commitment to raising awareness and fostering further action to safeguard our planet, drawing upon our shared culture: “We are talking to stakeholders and other governments to collect ideas and best practices to see how we can build a consensus altogether in order to develop a culture of responsible and sustainable citizenship”.

On 12 April, the Hub delved deeper into the intersection of cultural heritage and climate action, during a one-to-one public discussion between HRH Princess Dana Firas and Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović. Both speakers remained optimistic when looking towards COP 29, highlighting potential for progress. They also stressed the importance of collective action and continued advocacy.

Accelerating EU / Western Balkans Integration: The Untapped Potential of our Shared Heritage

Against a backdrop of a welcome acceleration of the EU enlargement agenda, this panel underscored the untapped potential of our shared cultural heritage in bridging citizens and institutions across EU Member States and candidate states from the Western Balkans. Special focus was given to the vital role of cities and civil society organisations in mobilising citizens and communities to safeguard our shared values and cultural heritage. This includes not only efforts within their own cities and regions but also collaboration across borders, in partnership with neighbouring countries.

Moderated by Mary Adamopoulou, reporter at the Greek daily newspaper TA NEA, the panel featured distinguished speakers, including Haris Doukas, Mayor of Athens; Lydia Carras, Founder and Vice-President of Elliniki Etairia; Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra; and Vesna Marjanović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra Serbia.

During the discussion, the Mayor of Athens, Harris Doukas, shared their efforts to further democratise the city through bottom-up approaches such as the initiative ‘SynAthina’. A notable aspect of Athens’ strategy is its use of cultural heritage to attract international guests and visitors, particularly from the Western Balkans. The Mayor of Athens also outlined plans to develop strategies to alleviate tourism pressure, ensuring the protection of the city’s residents while promoting sustainable development.

Lydia Carras, Founder and Vice-President of Elliniki Etairia underscored the critical role of community mobilisation in preserving cultural heritage. Vesna Marjanović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra Serbia, underlined the significant role of cultural heritage in bridging communities and fostering understanding. She highlighted the importance of exchanging experiences and expertise within the European heritage community to address challenges and promote sustainable development.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, recognised the rich shared heritage in the Western Balkans and emphasised the need for cross-border collaboration to preserve it. She called for a collective effort to address challenges such as unsustainable development and underlined the role of civil society organisations in advocating for democracy and the rule of law.

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