The election of thirteen Council members and new funding to bolster ICCROM’s digital capabilities were some of the headline announcements to come out of the 32nd General Assembly, which also saw an ambitious programme of activities approved for 2022-23.

President of the 32nd session Patricia Kell
President of the 32nd session Patricia Kell

Ably presided over from Rome by the President of the 32nd session Patricia Kell, the biennial meeting was held entirely online for the first time in ICCROM’s history. Delegates from among our 137 Member States, observers and partner organizations beamed in from their home countries for two days of discussion and debate that inevitably reflected the unprecedented global events of the past two years.

Several video messages from dignitaries touched on themes of recovery and transition, including the Italian Cultural Heritage Minister Dario Franceschini, who described ICCROM as a “fundamental asset” well placed to support economic growth, social change and climate action. Italy’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova highlighted the value of digital tools in promoting heritage to “connect people, bridge divides and strengthen the feeling of belonging within a community”, while UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone Ramirez said ICCROM was “more essential than ever” in helping to realise the potential of heritage to support sustainable development.

During his own opening remarks, Director-General Webber Ndoro spoke of ICCROM’s close collaboration with Member States and partners as being among our greatest assets, together with our determination to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of a changing world. “We see heritage playing a fundamental role in fostering identity, social cohesion and a sense of belonging, but also in driving wellbeing, innovation and resilience,” he said. “We’re determined to rise to the occasion, as we have in the past, and we are focusing our efforts on improving our digital capabilities to ensure continued and enhanced service delivery.”

Director-General Webber Ndoro
Director-General Webber Ndoro

In a significant boost to this goal, Member States voted to fund investment in new systems, infrastructure, e-learning tools, and online resources that will help transform ICCROM into a truly digital organization, enabling us to increase our reach and take full advantage of the burgeoning opportunities in this space. Plans to further develop our flagship programmes, prospective activities, training partnerships, research, and other services over the next biennium were also well received, with delegates approving the 2022-23 Programme of Activities and Budget.

While the General Assembly was largely focused on strengthening ICCROM for the future, the achievements of the current biennium were acknowledged by delegates on the first day, when they voted to endorse the Report of the Implementation of Activities for 2020-21. Several countries, including China, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America, delivered statements noting that, notwithstanding the challenges, considerable progress was made in areas such as capacity building, knowledge sharing and Member State engagement.

During proceedings, 13 successful candidates were elected to the ICCROM Council for a four-year term, joining the 12 members currently serving until 2023. Hailing from across five continents, these members represent diverse fields of heritage conservation and will provide crucial direction to our work at this pivotal juncture:

  • Juan Diego BADILLO REYES
  • María del Carmen CASTRO BARRERA
  • Camille DE CLERCQ
  • Benoît DUBOSSON
  • Abdoul Aziz GUISSÉ
  • Purity KIURA
  • John ROBBINS
  • Manvi SETH
  • Ye ZHU

ICCROM Bureau at the 32nd General Assembly
ICCROM Bureau at the 32nd General Assembly

The newly formed Council met the day after the General Assembly to elect a chairperson, John Robbins, and two deputy chairpersons, Florencia Gear and Michaela Hanssen, marking the end of outgoing chairperson Oliver Martin’s tenure. His leadership over the past four years has helped steer us through a difficult period and shape us into a better organization. We thank him for his dedicated service.

Underscoring the democratic nature of the General Assembly, Member States, observers, and partner organizations were invited to request the ‘virtual’ floor on the final day to express their views and raise matters of concern. Our thanks go to them and to all those in attendance for contributing to the success of the meeting. You are empowering us to promote cultural heritage conservation in all its forms, in every region of the world, without leaving anyone behind. A busy two years now lie ahead – we are ready to make them count!

The 32nd ICCROM General Assembly was held on 27 and 28 October 2021. Watch proceedings from the first and second days on our YouTube channel.