Heritage and Sustainability

Regulating Participation

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In the past three decades, there has been increasing research carried out on the role of heritage and its processes in achieving broader sustainable development objectives beyond heritage conservation. As part of this movement, people-centered approaches and participation have been widely integrated into international regulations and guidelines on heritage management, stimulating the implementation of case studies-based research worldwide. Despite the wide advocacy of participatory heritage practices’ contributions to more inclusive and culturally sensitive local development in a great variety of projects, there is limited research into the roles these practices can have in addressing sustainability objectives. How are these roles addressed in international heritage regulatory frameworks, and what forms of participation are promoted for their fulfillment? This paper seeks to answer this research question through a content analysis of international declarations, conventions, guidelines, and policy documents focused on the roles and forms of participation that are promoted. A crossed-matched analysis of results reveals that active forms of participation are those most used to promote all roles and subcategories of participation, as a right, as a driver, and as an enabler of sustainable development. However, fewer active forms are presented as complementary at different stages of sustainability-oriented heritage practices. Moreover, a higher incidence of generic forms of participation can be observed in documents addressing international stakeholders, while partnership and intervention are to be found in those targeting regional and local actors. Nevertheless, the low incidence of decisional forms of participation confirms the challenges of power-sharing at all scales. Trends and influences are highlighted, informing heritage research, governance, and policymaking, but also revealing gaps and ambiguities in current regulations that further research encompassing a larger number of documents might confirm.