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Measuring Heritage Contribution to Sustainable Development

This is a multidisciplinary project integrating knowledge and skills from a range of disciplines to offer a unique purchase on the challenges linked with the conservation of cultural heritage in the face of scarce economic resources and conflicting social priorities. This research work is conducted together with ICCROM as part of Prof Riganti ICCROM Fellowship 2020/21. The project refers to the ongoing international research and policy debate, which aims to firmly establish cultural heritage at the heart of the global commitment to sustainable urbanization and the implementation of a "New Urban Agenda", in the context of the 2030 SDGs (Declaration of the Council of the European Union, 2014; UN Resolution for Culture and Sustainable Development, 2014; UNESCO Global Report on Culture and Sustainable Urban Development, 2015; ICOMOS Concept Note for the UN post-2015 Agenda and Habitat III 2015; UN Resolution Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, 2015).

The project’s theoretical rationale is positioned within the current debate on the circular economy paradigm, applied to cities and cultural heritage (De Medici, Riganti and Viola 2018, Circular Economy and the Role of Universities in Urban Regeneration: The Case of Ortigia, Syracuse, Sustainability Vol 10). The application of the circular paradigm to settlements, promotes the idea that an ever-growing economic, profitable development can happen without an ever-growing pressure on the environment (Pearce and Turner, 1991, Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment; Johns Hopkins University Press USA). The circular economy paradigm has been recently debated within the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Approach promoted by UNESCO (UNESCO, 2011 Recommendation on HUL). The circular economy model applied to the historic urban landscape helps maximize the value of historic settlements, activating virtuous social, economic and environmental synergies. In fact, an active social and cultural involvement is a necessary condition for successful strategies with heritage at the core. Local cultural heritage in both developed and developing countries represents a cultural capital asset (Throsby, 1999 Cultural Capital, Journal of Cultural Economics, vol. 23), whose value needs to be understood and promoted for sustainable human development, economic growth, job creation and communities’ wellbeing.

Aims and Objectives

The overarching objective of the project is to develop preliminary guidelines to promote and monitor progress towards SDG. Such guidelines would be disseminated to both the academic and policy making communities. The guidelines will be co-created with members’ states representatives, internationally renowned experts, UNESCO, ICOMOS and ICCROM representatives of the academic agenda of the workshops that will take place during the life of the project.

The project uses a variety of social science research methods such as Delphi workshops with experts and policy makers as well as pilot surveys to gather experts and member states’ representatives’ opinions. Such methodologies will be applied to explore the nexus between the current debate on sustainability indicators and the challenges faced by people managing cultural heritage at both local, national and international level.

Project Team and Partners

Professor Patrizia Riganti, PI

Dr Patrizia Riganti is Professor in Tourism at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow. She is an advisor and Fellow of ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), and seats on two ICOMOS International Scientific Committees: Economics of Conservation and Energy and Sustainable Development. She is an architect, holding an MPhil in Urban Design, an MSc in Urban Planning and a PhD in Economic Valuation Methods in the Integrated Conservation of Architectural, Urban and Environmental Heritage.


International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property