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A Future in Ruins (Lynn Meskell)

Author elsslots
Admin
#1 | Posted: 22 Nov 2018 12:33 
Stanford anthropologist calls for change at UNESCO and its World Heritage program
UNESCO's utopian ambition of international peace through education and cultural exchange has gotten lost, according to Stanford anthropologist Lynn Meskell's new work.
https://news.stanford.edu/2018/11/19/stanford-scholar-examines-unescos-world-heritage -program/
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/a-future-in-ruins-9780190648343?cc=us&lang=en &

Anyone that has read the book? I wonder how much detail is in there, for example how she substantiates "Powerful countries get away with incredible things."

Author GaryArndt
Registered
#2 | Posted: 22 Nov 2018 17:18 
Just purchased it on Amazon. Will be reading it next week in Spain.

Author elsslots
Admin
#3 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 11:39 | Edited by: elsslots 
I just finished reading it. Some observations:

It is very much a book for a scientific audience (she is an archeologist), written for her peers and with thanks to about 200 people, numerous quotations and annotations that take up 50% of the pages in the book. From page 75 on or so it becomes a 'better' read.

However, for us WH followers it does provide an in-depth overview of the political dealings in and around UNESCO and the WHC of the past 20 years or so. For example the background stories around Venice (in danger or not), Preah Vihear, Jerusalem and the Palestine sites, Panama, Meiji sites. I heard or read most of these stories before (or witnessed them via the live streams), but good to have them in 1 place for future reference.

About the pitch "Powerful countries get away with incredible things." some things can be said:
- "From 1977 to 2005, in 314 nominations, 42 percent benefitted those countries that served as members of the World Heritage Committee. This is striking when one considers that the twenty-one Committee members account for only about 11 percent of the total number of signatories to the Convention." - these statistics underpin the general feeling that the most active countries also get the most out of it
- "During the Istanbul meetings in 2016 the United States prepared a typed script advocating its nomination of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, and in the midst of heated debate on the property, one long-serving US delegate left his seat, approached an African Committee member, and handed over a script to read" - powerful members find their ways to be heard, even if they are not on the WHC themselves
- the role of Japan, now the largest donor to UNESCO after the US financial withdrawal and so would not be put off from nominating other controversial sites.

On the subject of money:
"The formal process of inscription may take many years, millions of dollars, and much unofficial negotiation and lobbying. In 2015 Jamaica spent US$13 million on its first inscription, while Japan's government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent envoys to fifteen countries to push for, and ensure, its controversial nomination of the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution"

And also Wikileaks info on the inscription of Preah Vihear, and the US diplomacy here: "If the Preah Vihear dispute could be resolved, it might potentially resolve the overlapping maritime claims in the Gulf of Thailand. For the United States this would mean access to vast natural gas reserves to be exploited by US companies such as Chevron, which have since been granted extended concessions."

And: "Inscribing the Pyu Ancient Cities was critical because it was Myanmar's first World Heritage nomination, many said, not because of its archaeological importance or conservation status. In doing so, international experts found further advisory roles for themselves as they embarked on preparations for a new dossier nominating Bagan, Myanmar's second potential World Heritage site. consultants, universities, NGOs, and governments that ensure reciprocal access, contracts, projects, and partnerships that proliferate when a country such as Myanmar emerges from isolation."

Author Solivagant
Registered
#4 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 11:48 
elsslots:
In 2015 Jamaica spent US$13 million on its first inscription,

I really find that impossible to believe - has she quoted sources????

Author elsslots
Admin
#5 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 11:58 | Edited by: elsslots 
Solivagant:
has she quoted sources????

Yes: Gleaner, May 25, 2015. The Gleaner is a Jamaican newspaper.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20150525/13m-allocated-towards-designating-tw o-local-mountains-world-heritage-sites

Includes a $4.6 million trip to Bonn..., (that are expensive tickets and hotels!)

Aaargh - they are Jamaican dollars! (102.000 USD only). You already found an error in the book without even reading it!

Author elsslots
Admin
#6 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 12:00 
You really should give yourself this book for Christmas, Solivagant. It has lots of tidbits on history and politics that I think you enjoy.

Author Solivagant
Registered
#7 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 12:59 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
Gleaner, May 25, 2015. The Gleaner is a Jamaican newspaper.

I know the Jamaica Gleaner -have even read it in Jamaica!.
I have searched its archives on all likely factors - in every combination - Date, Blue Mountains, UNESCO etc etc but can't access the article - though plenty of others on May 25 2015.

HOWEVER - I have looked at a number of articles which cite "money" values for various things.
The international official sign for the Jamaica $ is either "J$" or "JA$" but we need to remember that locals reading the Gleaner would expect the currency to be their own unless stated to be otherwise!!! It doesn't seem to be the Gleaner's practice to use US $ in normal circumstances or to specifically identify the Jamaica Dollar

See these extracts from an article on the Urban Transport company in Jamaica cut straight from the paper "Roper revealed that the JUTC is expected to save $412 million a year with the introduction of a cashless system on September 1, 2014" and "Total operating expenses for the JUTC last fiscal year was estimated at $5.2 billion and is projected to increase to $6.7 billion, based on information contained in its profit and loss accounts".

I fear that Ms Meskell has seen a figure in JA$ and used it as $ US???? If so then JA$15 million actually equals c US$120000 - which I would think would be a more reasonable cost for developing the Nomination. US$15 million just doesn't pass the "reality test"

I also found this article dated just 6 weeks later about the development of the Nomination - it seems to have been done relatively "low key" with the Jamaica government only coming in quite late - http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20150706/jamaicas-long-trek-unesco-glory

PS - I see that you have found the actual article - the prices are INDEED In Jamaican $$$!

Author elsslots
Admin
#8 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 13:02 | Edited by: elsslots 
Solivagant:
I fear that Ms Meskell has seen a figure in JA$ and used it as $ US????

Yes she did, I double-checked it in the book. See my post above yours for the article

Author Solivagant
Registered
#9 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 13:05 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
You already found an error in the book without even reading it!

My "speciality" eh??? Remember the Collins book on WHS which invented a new species of bird and was riddled with other errors!!

We all make mistakes but it does make one wonder about her other "facts"

Author Solivagant
Registered
#10 | Posted: 8 Dec 2018 13:51 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
And also Wikileaks info on the inscription of Preah Vihear, and the US diplomacy here: "If the Preah Vihear dispute could be resolved, it might potentially resolve the overlapping maritime claims in the Gulf of Thailand. For the United States this would mean access to vast natural gas reserves to be exploited by US companies such as Chevron, which have since been granted extended concessions."

I think we all know that professors and consultants have a relatively small "kitbag" of examples and subjects which they have worked and become gurus on. This doesn't ipso facto of course invalidate their arguments - but it does mean that they keep getting recycled in different fora!
Here are a couple of videos of Prof Meskell lecturing on her favourite subjects - I have only heard the first few minutes of each but will listen fully later

a. Giving a lecture on her "Preah Vihear" example at a conference in India in Aug 2017 -
World Heritage : Territory, Trade and Temples on the Thaiā€Cambodian Border |
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgf11IGfjV4

b. At the same conference - UNESCO World Heritage: A New Global Order of Things
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8b6T_r80KK0

Author Solivagant
Registered
#11 | Posted: 10 Dec 2018 04:08 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
Includes a $4.6 million trip to Bonn.

Even after correction of the exchange rate for values quoted by Prof Meskell it is interesting to note -
a, Total Cost of gaining inscription $13 million Jamaican $
b. Cost of trip to Bonn to lobby for the nomination $4.6 million Jamaican $ (c US$ 32000)
c. Therefore cost of developing the proposal/management plans etc etc etc = $8.4 million Jamaican $ (C US$ 66000)

So of the total, 65% was spent on developing the nomination and 35% was spent on the trip to Bonn to support it.

Even allowing for the inevitable loading of the trip to Bonn for "hangers on", these figures tend to support Prof Meskell's thesis regarding the importance of what goes on at the WHC behind the scenes. The implication is that you don't turn up with your top diplomats, press the flesh and dish out the goodies (both tangible and "diplomatic" then your case will be severely compromised. So money spent at the "Back end" (i.e the WHC) could be money well spent!!

It needs to be remembered that the Blue Mountains nomination had a "difficult" inscription.
a. It had been "deferred" in 2011 - I wonder if the "costs" of this original nomination were included in the government figures given in the Gleaner and quoted by Prof Meskell
b. As a "mixed" site it was necessary to satisfy both IUCN and ICOMOS - the former proved very awkward forcing the removal of large parts of the property which it didn't consider met its requirements for "original Forest". BUT - in the end Jamaica was prepared to do whatever was necessary to gain inscription and acquired "Inscribe" recommendations from both IUCN and ICOMOS to take to the WHC.

In that case one wonders quite why extra lobbying etc was going to be necessary. A large part of Prof Meskell's case was the amount of "conversion" of AB recommendations -"reject" to "defer", "defer" to "refer" and "refer" to "Inscribe" (etc!!!) which was taking place at the WHC in recent years. That is undeniable and has been commented on and documented on this web site - but Jamaica wasn't in that situation. I suppose that it still important to see and be seen - you might make contacts or do things for others which will make a future nomination such as Port Royal have an easier passage!!!! Or, again as per Prof Meskell, enable you to do something regarding "heritage" which might gain something else in a completely different sphere. We should not be surprised I suppose that the UAE's Khor Dubai seems to have a charmed existence. UAE must have plenty of money to splash about to help other countries on all sorts of things

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