Council of Europe Cultural Routes Advisory Forum

Council of Europe cultural routes: cultural tourism for intercultural dialogue and social stability

The 2014 Council of Europe Cultural Routes Advisory Forum was co-organised by the Ministry for Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes (EPA) and the European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR). The event was opened by the Minister for Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Abulfas Garayev, and the Council of Europe’s Director General of Democracy, Snežana Samardžić-Marković. Deputy Minister, Sevda Mammadaliyeva, gave the closing speech of the Forum.

The Forum’s conclusions are set out in the Baku Declaration adopted by participants at the close of the sessions, which takes stock of the achievements since the 2013 Forum in Innsbruck and sets new goals for the future activities of the Council of Europe cultural routes. The exchanges and discussions in the thematic workshops will contribute to further progress and to identifying and elaborating strategies for the future.

The Forum was attended by representatives of the Council of Europe’s 29 certified routes and candidate projects from all over Europe, representatives from member states of the EPA, international organisations (European Union, UNWTO, OECD, ICOMOS), NGOs, local and regional authorities, universities and professionals in the cultural tourism sector.

The four workshops of the Forum produced constructive outcomes and new proposals for action, which will be followed up during the twelve months until the next Advisory Forum to be held in Aranjuez, Spain.

Cultural routes as vectors for intercultural dialogue. Participants stressed that the freedom to participate was a precondition for intercultural dialogue. They emphasised the importance of direct experience and of tourism as a facilitator of accessibility to experiences where it provides authentic and unrestricted contact between host and guest communities. They stated that creative interpretation must be integrated in the development of the Council of Europe cultural routes’ activities to give space for intuition and emotion, and that engagement with the values of a cultural route may also be expressed through physical activities, including sport.

Cultural routes as drivers for sustainable social and economic development. Participants recommended that cultural routes work towards raising the awareness of residents and local business communities of the cultural and economic value of their heritage, thus enabling them to become the main promoters of their own culture. They considered that dialogue between Council of Europe cultural routes and local and global business communities should be promoted through creative platforms and that dialogue between Routes and Research and Development departments should be encouraged in a transnational, multi-level approach.

Cultural routes as educational tools for understanding past conflicts, easing tensions and promoting peaceful cohabitation. The participants in the workshop recognised that cultural routes have the potential to create places where intercultural dialogue can flourish and to foster peace through the promotion of social justice, human rights, economic equity, sustainable development and democracy. They recommended that the Council of Europe cultural routes engage in educational activities about European history, including conflicts, for all types of public. They called upon the participants at the Conference of Ministers for Culture and Tourism organized jointly by UNESCO and the UNWTO (Cambodia, February 2015) to bear in mind the importance of cultural routes for fostering intercultural dialogue and proposed that cultural routes for peace be a theme for the next World Forum on Intercultural dialogue (Baku, May 2015).

Cultural routes as guardians of Europe’s memory and living history. The participants in this workshop recalled that Council of Europe cultural routes are channels for intergenerational transmission of memory and living history, offering opportunities to tell Europe’s “stories” through the different standpoints of the networks of witnesses and inheritors. They encouraged cultural routes to be instruments for cultural dialogue and reconciliation and recommended the creation of platforms (through research, education, business involvement and new technologies) to foster the co-production of living memories. Emphasising the importance of fostering bottom-up approaches, participants recommended that communities collectively identify and contribute content to cultural routes and that the sharing of cultural routes contents should be based on different means of actively engaging local communities, such as festivals and events. Informative and interactive approaches should balance tangible and intangible heritage and challenge stereotypes to reveal common European stories and citizenships.

All the workshops emphasised the importance of ensuring the full participation of younger generations, and consequently of Cultural Routes developing active education programmes, tourism products and capacity-building programmes that specifically target young audiences, as well as attractive and relevant new communication channels using digital technologies.

During the Forum, the certified cultural routes set up a Task Force to facilitate cooperation and synergies.