Gridlock: UNESCO, global conflict and failed ambitions

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Gridlock: UNESCO, global conflict and failed ambitions

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World Archaeology


Meskell, Lynn

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Taylor & Francis Online




Abstract: Deliberations over World Heritage designation increasingly provide a platform for new political alliances, international tensions and challenges to global cooperation. How has this situation arisen in UNESCO, an organization dedicated to fostering peace, tolerance and international co-operation? Since we now face an ever more interconnected world and our problems are more global they require solutions that traverse nation-states and require them to work effectively together. Yet any decision to act or protect, especially during conflict, inevitably leads to multi-polarity, fragmentation and impasse. Drawing on Hale and Held’s theory of gridlock that underscores the failures of multilateralism across the UN generally, I suggest that World Heritage provides a salient example. Since UNESCO relies on the consent and participation of sovereign nations, their decisions often mirror the very lowest level of ambition to prevail. Case studies are drawn from recent conflict over World Heritage sites in Mali, Syria and Crimea.

Additional tags: World Heritage; multilateralism; UNESCO; sites of conflict


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