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  • Writer's pictureThe Future is Heritage

Our Response to the Europa Nostra's Cultural Heritage Summit 2023

As young enthusiasts committed to shaping the future of European cultural heritage, we recently attended Europa Nostra's European Heritage Summit 2023 in Venice. While the summit was undoubtedly a celebration of our shared heritage, it is crucial that we address a pertinent issue - the limited representation and engagement of the younger generations.

Talks during the European Heritage Hub, with FISH--member Grace Emely. Image: Rogier Vonk, CC-BY.

The summit, a gathering of minds dedicated to heritage preservation, offered a diverse range of insights and experiences. However, the absence of a substantial youth presence was notable. As the torchbearers of our cultural legacy, we should be active participants whose voice is taken seriously.

Building a Sustainable Culture

At this year's summit, climate change was heralded as a central theme. During the second day, people discussed the importance of putting heritage at the forefront of climate action. Meanwhile, Europa Nostra’s Youth Members had to sit in the back. Outside the window, unbeknownst to most, you could see that the iconic Piazza San Marco had flooded once again. It prompts us to question: Can we genuinely address climate action without actively involving the youth in the decision-making?

The youth has a direct stake in the decisions made today. Involving them ensures that policies consider the long-term impacts on their lives and the sustainability of the planet. Young people have demonstrated a remarkable ability to mobilize and drive change. They are at the forefront of grassroots movements, advocating for climate action and sustainability. Involving them in decision-making acknowledges their agency and recognizes their potential to be powerful advocates for meaningful climate policies.

Europa Nostra's Youth Members wearing 'The Future is Youth'--badge, a FISH initiative. Image: Rogier Vonk, CC-BY.

A Call for Youth-Centric Initiatives

Europa Nostra has made small improvements in terms of youth participation over the recent years. Most importantly in helping facilitate The Future is Heritage summits, in parallel with their own summits. However, this is insufficient since younger generations are still limited in their agency to engage and influence in the decision-making process.

Our generation brings fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a deep-seated passion for cultural heritage. Yet, the current structure of the summit did not fully tap into this wealth of potential. In envisioning the future, let's urge Europa Nostra to take concrete steps in involving young professionals and students more actively.

1. Youth-Led Dialogue

Dedicated sessions made by and tailored to the interests and concerns of young professionals and students should be a core part of Europa Nostra’s future summits. By providing a platform, Europa Nostra could foster a sense of ownership and commitment amongst the youth.

2. Interactive Workshops

Include interactive workshops that encourage hands-on participation. This could range from practical conservation techniques to discussions on leveraging technology for heritage preservation. Ideas and experiences should be shared and be open for discussion.

3. Active Representation

Encourage attendees of Europa Nostra’s summits to bring along a young person. This not only offers invaluable experiences for young professionals, but also injects fresh energy and ideas into the organization.

Implementing these proposals will not only empower and inspire future generations for cultural heritage and its preservation – it will also preserve Europa Nostra’s role as an important heritage network in Europe. The youth holds the future. It is time that we have our say in it.


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