Community participation in cultural heritage conservation has been a concern ever since the Venice Charter (1964) and is still to this day [1
]. This approach has also been highlighted in World Heritage Documents. In addition, the Faro Convention (2005) adopted to shift the focus from the conservation of cultural heritage values to the value of cultural heritage for the society. In this case, it is necessary to engage local people participation in all stages of cultural heritage conservation and management [2
]. Moreover, a number of papers have focused on the importance of public participation in heritage conservation and tourism management [3
Moreover, the Dresden Elbe Valley example opens a debate about whether local people would be willing to live in a World Heritage Site or not if it was up for a vote. The construction of the Waldschlößchenbrücke Bridge was vital for the city, which led the Federal Republic of Germany to put the decision up for locals to vote whether they wanted a construction of the Bridge (which meant being delisted), or being on the World Heritage List. Interestingly, a little over half of the eligible people participated in the referendum with 67.92% voting for the first option [5
Everyone knows that living in World Heritage Sites (e.g., historic cities) is not the same as living in public or governmental buildings or sites where local people participation is able to enhance the conservation and management process. Historic cities are a place of everyday life and a place for the activities of their local people, generation after generation. They belong to the people. In fact, World Heritage Site designation affects all aspects of a local community’s life in these areas [6
]. This paper examines the views of local people living in Yazd, a World Heritage Site, in five categories: Willingness, quality of life, decision-making, benefits, and awareness.
The Historic City of Yazd World Heritage Site is located in the middle of the central plateau of Iran, 621 km southeast of Tehran. “The nominated property consists of three components covering an area of 195.76 ha and includes the historic city center, the Zoroastrian district, and the Dolat-abad Persian garden, which is also a component of the serial World Heritage property…. The buffer zone encompasses the three nominated components and covers an area of 665.93 ha.” The city “has about sixty districts. Nineteen districts are located within the Historic City of Yazd. Districts are characterized by professional, ethnic or religious concentrations” [7
]. Around one third of the urban area is located in the historical city. More than 436,000 people (around 50,000 households) are living in the urban area [8
] (Figure 1
). This area, now known as Historic City of Yazd, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2017.
Before inscribing on the World Heritage List, local people were happy that the city was going to be a part of world heritage, but after listing, concerns arose about what the benefits were for living in a World Heritage Site [10
]. It seems that, for some State Parties, the inscription of a property on the World Heritage List is not to improve cultural heritage conservation, protection, and providing advantages for the local community, but is done for the sake of modifying international prestige and being under the flag of the UNESCO title.
Besides, although participatory approach is highlighted in the World Heritage Documents, there are no indicators for an assessment of local people participation in the nomination dossier. It seems that local people opinion is not that important for the World Heritage Center and they just emphasize on the State Parties’ decision, because all State Parties are responsible in all steps (e.g., providing the Tentative List, nomination dossier, annual report, etc.) from nominating a property to the management of World Heritage Sites. Local people who are the main stakeholders, the real owners of the cultural and World Heritage Site, are deliberately or unintentionally ignored by some State Parties.
According to the World Heritage Convention, the process of inscription of a property on the World Heritage List is to prepare a nomination dossier by the State Party. According to the Resource Manuals by the World Heritage Centre, “the first step a given State Party must take is to make an ‘inventory’ of its important natural and cultural heritage sites located within its boundaries. This ‘inventory’ is known as the Tentative List and provides a forecast of the properties that a State Party may decide to submit for inscription in the next five to ten years and which may be updated at any time. It is an important step since the World Heritage Committee cannot consider a nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List unless the property has already been included on the State Party’s Tentative List.”
“By preparing a Tentative List and selecting sites from it, a State Party can plan when to present a nomination file. The World Heritage Centre offers advice and assistance to the State Party in preparing this file, which needs to be as exhaustive as possible, making sure the necessary documentation and maps are included. The nomination is submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review and to check it is complete. Once a nomination file is complete the World Heritage Centre sends it to the appropriate Advisory Bodies for evaluation” [11
Then, “A nominated property is independently evaluated by two Advisory Bodies mandated by the World Heritage Convention; The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which respectively provide the World Heritage Committee with evaluations of the cultural and natural sites nominated. The third Advisory Body is the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an intergovernmental organization which provides the Committee with expert advice on conservation of cultural sites, as well as on training activities. Once a site has been nominated and evaluated, it is up to the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee to make the final decision on its inscription. Once a year, the Committee meets to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It can also defer its decision and request further information on sites from the State Parties” [12
In this case, the main question is whether local people who are living in the World Heritage Zone (as well as the buffer zone) are satisfied to live in a World Heritage Site or not. In addition, before nominating the Historic City of Yazd for inscription on the World Heritage List, were local people asked about their opinions on the matter? Furthermore, has the quality of life modified after inscribing on the World Heritage List?
2. Materials and Methods
Although it is necessary to engage all main-participant sectors (private, public, and civil society) in a participatory approach in urban context as potential partnerships [13
], this paper focuses on city consultation as the property owners in the Historic City of Yazd World Heritage Site. In this research, three variables were examined by a questionnaire of 23 questions and 400 interviewees during a period of around two months between 2 March and 25 April, 2019. The variables were local people satisfaction, knowledge of local people in local, national and international organization responsibilities, and local people rights in cultural heritage conservation. In this case, three sorts of questionnaires were designed for the interview. The first category was about the satisfaction of the local people living in the buffer zone of the historic city before and after registering for the World Heritage List. The second category was the role of local people in the decision-making process, and the last category was the role of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization and the World Heritage Center in conservation and management.
The population of Yazd living in the urban area is 436,742. According to Social Scientific tools, if the confidence level and the confidence interval are 95% and 5%, respectively, the number of questionnaires must be for more than 384 interviews, which is acceptable in this particular research. Confidence level (also called margin of error) shows “the plus-or-minus figure usually reported in newspaper or television opinion poll results.” Confidence interval displays how certain the survey can be, “the 95% confidence level means the research can be 95% certain” [14
] (Figure 2
Of course, designed questionnaires follow its basic regulations. The questions “are as short as possible, are not leading or have implicit assumptions, do not include two questions in one, only exceptionally invite yes/no answers, are not too vague or general, do not use double negatives, are not, in any sense, invasive, or asking questions that the respondent is unlikely to want to answer, and do not invite respondents to breach confidentiality” [15
]. Moreover, interviews must include all possible ages.
Since the main concept of participation was maximum engagement, the research was designed to include all people over 15 years of age in the interview. It was obvious that participants younger than 15 years required a specific sort of questionnaire which was redundant in this survey. In the Historic City of Yazd, the population census of 2015 showed that 436,742 people were living in the urban area, which were divided into age groups for this research: Five groups with a 10 year range for each group, and one group for participants older than 65 years (Table 1
In addition, in order to apply gender equality, the exact number of women and men in each group was calculated. For example, the population census displayed that 41,307 females between the age of 15 to 24 (Group A) were living in the urban area, which were equivalent to around 19% of all females, and also 40,949 males (18%) were reported in this group. The more populated group for both genders was Group B, which covered around 30% and 28% of all women and men, respectively. The smallest group was Group F where the percentage of women and men was equal (7%) (Table 2
The percentage of the population aimed for the research to justly distribute the questionnaires among all groups and also follow gender equality. Thus, the research needed to interview 38 women and 36 men between 15 and 24 (Group A). In order to have a correct evaluation, the number of interviewees older than 65 was not allowed to exceed 7% in both genders. The final step was to equally distribute the questionnaires in the entire core and buffer zone (Table 3
According to Corrado Minervini, the method to fairly ask local people about their attitude in urban areas is equivalent reticulation, which means gridding the buffer zone for distributing 400 questionnaires [16
]. The size of gridding depends on the size of the area. In this case, the gridding points sometimes were matched on the buildings. Otherwise, the nearest buildings were interviewed (Figure 3
The questionnaire included general questions related to income, education, age, and gender. The rest of the questions were about the main research hypotheses: Local people satisfaction of living in a World Heritage Site, the role of local people in the decision-making process, and the knowledge of the local people of the responsibilities of national and international organizations in regards to heritage management and protection. This paper focuses on the results of five main questions concerning the local people agreement, the change of the quality of life, the decision-making process, benefits of inscribing on the World Heritage List, and the responsibilities of the organizations.
The system of the World Heritage Nomination is a completely top-down decision-making process in Iran. There are long Tentative Lists provided by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft, and Tourism Organization which is officially the very governmental organization. Besides, every year the Bureau of World Heritage Nomination, which is also officially the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft, and Tourism Organization, decides which property in the Tentative List should be nominated for listing. Although the World Heritage Center persists in local participation in the nomination process, this process is still top-down without any local people agreement. Therefore, there is no local participation in the process. Local people living in the Historic City of Yazd are the real owners of the site, but no one asked them whether they would like to inscribe their properties on the World Heritage List or not. In addition, the research shows that the inscription of the Historic City of Yazd on the World Heritage List did not lead to an improvement in the inhabitants’ quality of life which could act as an incentive. Even by considering the growth in the tourism sector and a stricter protection of the cultural heritage by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization, they face serious problems in the buffer zone.
In general, if the World Heritage Center adopted a way to apply participatory approach in the nominating process, State Parties would oblige to involve local communities in heritage management by implementing different activities, such as holding training workshops for local people and modifying national rules and regulations related to effective participation in order to engage local people in decision-making and dividing the benefits of the World Heritage Listing among them.