After the success of last year's inaugural Soft Power Conference, the second edition was held on 30 and 31 August 2021, with our Director-General Webber Ndoro, a member of the Soft Power Club, representing ICCROM at the event in Venice, Italy.
The members of the club are strong proponents of multilateral dialogue and collaboration as a means for nations to promote their interests, in what is the essence of ‘soft power’. They used the conference to put forth their vision for a world committed to shared values, ideals and projects, all of which will be needed to rise to the challenges of this watershed moment in history, including Covid-19 and climate change.
In his speech to attendees, the Director-General highlighted the pandemic’s effect on heritage and addressed the theme of sustainability with reference to the power of culture. “Science and culture underline the solution to both the pandemic and climate change,” he said. “The emphasis rightly put is that heritage is key to humanity and a solution to sustainability.” When it comes to solving these problems, though, he cautioned that “until we seriously begin to address all forms of inequality in the world, we are scratching the surface.”
There was added symbolism to hosting the event in Venice for a second time, in the year it celebrates the 1600th anniversary of its founding. The city is a global icon that has captivated people for centuries, serving as a physical and metaphorical crossroads for cultural exchange in the past and considered a present-day exemplar of heritage with universal and unique value. However, its future is far from certain and inextricably tied to the international community’s response to the climate crisis.
“Venice in many ways epitomises the situation at many World Heritage sites – issues of sustainability, climate change impact and community beneficiation,” said the Director-General. “This requires cooperation from all stakeholders at such places, not just the opinions of experts. There must be benefits to those who live in and around a world heritage site for it to achieve sustainability.”
In keeping with the prevailing sense of urgency, the conference ended with a call for a profound economic and social reset to save our planet and build a healthier, more sustainable future for people everywhere. The message is clear – change is inevitable and necessary, and it is incumbent on us all to make it count.