>Introduction: Linking Sustainable Development and the field of Cultural Heritage Resource Management

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Uncategorized



The concept of sustainable development is A broad policy framework (redclift, 1987; patel, unpublished Ph.D. thesis) that departs from a point of view that sustainability can be achieved only when production and consumption factors and levels are monitored (WCED1, 1987; Robinson, 1993). The key aim of the concept is ‘… meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life’ (WCED, 1987, p. 45), using natural resources in particular. The United Nations 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Quarrie, 1992) represents a global consensus, political commitment and plan of action on development and environment cooperation, which is outlined within the 27 principles contained in Annex 1 of the proceedings of the Rio conference (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992A/Conf.151/26 Vol. I (Robinson, 1993). Agenda 21 – an action plan for implementation of the sustainable development programme – emanated from the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and currently serves as a guiding document for operational approaches to sustainable development at international, government and local authority levels. Here I argue that, although Agenda 21 principles were initially formulated specifically for management of natural resources, they are also relevant for management of resources of a cultural heritage nature (see Figure1 above).

Figure 1. The neglected link between cultural heritage management and the sustainable development concept in developing countries (Keitumetse, 2005, unpublished Ph.D. thesis)

To link agenda 21 principles and cultural heritage resources, an integrated management approach that provides for recognition of communities’ archaeological heritage and local cultural values (cf. Edroma, 2004; Kopp, 2005) in environmental management is necessary. The link further creates opportunities for steps towards sustainable communities – those that are in harmony with the biophysical environment at cultural, social, economic and conservation levels.

Building on this framework, the objectives of this article are to (i) highlight a neglected link between sustainable development programme and the field of cultural heritage resource management, (ii) suggest management approaches that link the two programmes and (iii) demonstrate and discuss characteristics of cultural resources that render them compatible with the sustainable development programme.

Cultural Resources, Cultural Heritage and Cultural Heritage Management

Cultural resources are material (tangible) and non-material (intangible) remains of societies’ past activities on the environment, which comprise archaeological remains; monuments and sites; cultural landscapes superimposed on the natural environment; local indigenous knowledge systems; folk-life and folklore; and traditional practices and rituals attached to the biophysical environment. Cultural resources are transformed to cultural heritage when ‘… the material culture of past societies is re-evaluated and re-used in the present’ (Skeates, 2000, pp. 9–10) by current society. Therefore, cultural heritage resources are those cultural resources that are constantly appropriated, re-constructed and re-used by living communities to suit present needs, e.g. use for tourism, national identity, ritual, traditional, activities. The field of cultural heritage resource management is responsible for conservation and management of cultural heritage resources.

In most parts of the developing world, such as Botswana, resident communities are invaluable custodians of cultural heritage and cultural landscapes (Keitumetse, unpublished Ph.D. thesis; Keitumetse et al., 2007; Table1) – a stark contrast from the developed world, where monuments and sites are rarely inhabited and constantly used by resident communities. This characteristic of the developing world therefore renders sustainable development principles that address community/citizen participation (Table

1 above) as more applicable for the field of cultural heritage resource management, as these principles create opportunities for recognition of communities’ local cultural values in environmental management, by so doing contributing to the development of sustainable communities – those that interact with the biophysical environment in a meaningful manner.

Table 1. Sustainability principles relating to community participation (excerpts from Annex I of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992, United Nations)

Agenda 21 Principle No.



Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.


In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.


To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, states should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.


Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities … and the opportunity to participate in decision making process.


Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

At resource management level, systematic implementation strategies of Agenda 21 principles relating to cultural heritage resources are lacking (Keitumetse, 2005, unpublished Ph.D. thesis) when compared with the natural resource management field (cf. Pearce, 1993; Mukherjee, 1993; Green, 1995; Sengupta, 2001). Table1 above summarizes those Rio Declaration principles that address community participation during environmental resource management. An operational approach to sustainable practices in cultural heritage resource management encompasses socio-cultural elements during implementation of environmental management programmes for protected areas. The link between sustainability and the field of cultural heritage resource management is therefore summarized as follows (Keitumetse, unpublished Ph.D. thesis).

In addition to communities being active ‘storages’ of intangible heritage, hence relevant for conservation of the physical/biophysical/tangible heritage, they are recognized within the 1992 Rio Declaration as follows:

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognise and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development (Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Principle 22; Robinson, 1993, pp. 8–13).

Identifying Production and Consumption Indicators for Cultural Heritage Resources

Identification of indicators of ‘production’ and ‘consumption’ relating to cultural resources as well as establishment of appropriate limits needed to achieve sustainability are outstanding challenges in the management of cultural heritage resources. Production processes of cultural heritage resources are visible through placement of values and meanings (cf. Darvill, 1995) on the biophysical/tangible resources and environments – for instance, traditional practices, ritual activities and indigenous intellectual knowledge of landscapes. Constant changes in these values add another example of a production (Lipe, 1984) indicator. Additional indicators of production include identification of research and research relevance, a process that is viewed by some as basic to the construction, recognition and valorization of heritage, since it is through research (survey, excavation, literature review, discovery of new monuments and sites, etc) that archaeological heritage in particular is produced (Carver, 1996). Furthermore, communities of conservationists, Druids, New Age followers, astro-archaeologists, ley hunters, political parties and others are cited as examples of cultural groups that constantly reinvent (or produce) the past in ways that are very different from those of academia/research, by so doing replacing and renewing ancient sites and objects (Holtorf, 2001), a process often interpreted as indicative of the renewable nature of cultural/archaeological heritage resources (cf. Holtorf, 2001). However, since renewability is achieved only where outputs of consumption and production processes assume the same meaning and value whenever and wherever they are conducted (Keitumetse, unpublished Ph.D. thesis), culture and its associated products (cultural heritage) are non-renewable. The dynamic and diverse nature of culture further makes it impossible to relate to culture and associated products as renewable. Other examples of production include application of international conventions and concepts to cultural resources, e.g. the ‘world heritage’ (UNESCO, 1972) concept that promotes certain ‘heritages’ as more valuable than others.

In contrast, consumption indicators relating to cultural heritage resources are mainly associated with activities surrounding the uses of heritage such as support of national ideologies (cf. Kristiansen, 1992; Meskell, 1998) and/or reinforcement of local/individual identities through religious, ritual and traditional activities (cf. Keitumetse, 2006). Identity aspirations attached to monuments, sites and cultural landscapes, as well as use in tourism, also constitute forms of consumption by communities in the vicinity of landscapes of cultural value (Keitumetse et al., 2007). To achieve sustainability in resource use, limits have to be identified and placed on the aforementioned production and consumption indicators. The limits of acceptable change (LAC) process (Stankey et al., 1985) is identified and suggested as a way forward in this endeavour.

The Sustainable Development Programme

In retrospect, four conferences mark the pattern and direction in which the concept of SD evolved at the international level. The initial formulation of the principles, rights and responsibilities emanated from proceedings of a United Nations conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972 and was re-visited at a second conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1982. A more focused approach on a sustainable development programme was adopted in 1987 when the Brundtland2 report, titled Our Common Future (WCED, 1987), was produced as a manual of the sustainable development programme (also see Table5 below). The 1992 Rio Summit (Earth Summit ’92), culminated in proclamation of 27 Agenda 21 principles (Robinson, 1993, p. 8), which currently provide guidelines to implementation of sustainable development programme. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), in Johannesburg, South Africa, aimed to ‘overcome the obstacles to achieving sustainable development’. A direct link between the sustainable development programme and the field of cultural heritage resource management was not established and is still lacking.

Sustainable development and cultural heritage management in Botswana: towards sustainable communities

Conceptual Analysis
Way Forward

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