On July 26, 2023, Prof. DDr. Peter Strasser, LL.M., Professor for World Heritage and Cultural Property Protection at the University of Continuing Education Krems, gave a presentation on "The Common Heritage of Humanity and the Paradox of World Heritage" at the 7th International Conference on Culture and History and the 7th International Conference on Linguistics and Literature, respectively, in Vienna.

In his presentation, Strasser explained why - although most states have agreed in international agreements that Antarctica, the deep sea and the moon are "common heritage of humankind" - none of these areas are on the World Heritage List: This paradoxical situation is due to the prerogative of States (which have ratified the World Heritage Convention) to designate and nominate a site as a World Heritage property, which must be located within their own territory. Consequently, World Heritage was and is a national heritage "donated by one nation for all humankind." For this reason, areas outside the jurisdiction of states, such as the deep sea, Antarctica, and the moon, cannot be "world heritage of humanity."

Strasser pointed out the dominant role of states in the designation of World Heritage and ultimately in the composition of the World Heritage List. States are the leading actors in defining the concept of "heritage of humanity." Other actors in the identification and nomination process, such as UNESCO, cultural and natural heritage expert organizations, and the World Heritage Committee, can only play a reactive role, leaving the crucial heritage identification initiatives to the states.

Finally, Strasser presented models for the identification of "alternative World Heritage Lists" in his talk. In contrast to the state-dominated process, these approaches are mostly driven by private initiatives, NGOs and the media. The question remains whether such "private lists" are the more appropriate instrument to highlight (and finally protect) the "heritage of humanity".

Through the mediation of Peter Strasser, the 8th International Conference on Culture and History and the 8th International Conference on Linguistics and Literature, respectively, scheduled for July 25-27, 2024, will be held at the University of Continuing Education Krems.

About the person

In August 2022, Peter Strasser was appointed as Professor for "World Heritage and Cultural Property Protection" at the University of Continuing Education Krems according to § 99 University Law 2002.

Peter Strasser contributes his expertise in cultural heritage and cultural property protection - especially world heritage and legal norms - in an international and national context in research projects and in the further development of teaching programs at the Center for Architectural Heritage of the Department of Building and Environment and represents the topic on a national and international level.

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