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PhD defence

Striking a Balance between Local and Global Interests

  • S.H. Starrenburg
Thursday 2 May 2024
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.dr. N.J. Schrijver
  • Prof.dr. Y.M. Donders (UvA)


This dissertation delves into how international cultural heritage law affects individuals and local communities. It primarily examines the implementation of two UNESCO conventions: the World Heritage Convention and the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention. In practice, these treaties are often wielded by states to exert control over marginalised communities, for example by evicting the residents of heritage sites in the name of heritage protection. In many situations affected communities are unable to genuinely influence these decisions, despite their potential for far-reaching consequences upon their daily lives.

The dissertation argues that such negative consequences stem from the ‘universalising’ language of these conventions. By designating certain heritage as the ‘cultural heritage of mankind’, they empower states to prioritise purportedly common interests over the interests of local communities, potentially erasing living heritage value in the process.

Breaking new ground, the dissertation combines research from various disciplines on the local impact of cultural heritage law and situates these findings within the framework of public international law. Based on a thorough analysis of the current state of the law, the dissertation highlights how cultural heritage law fails to protect the interests of individuals and local communities. Drawing upon participatory principles from environmental and human rights law, it offers practical recommendations for policymakers to enhance the position of individuals and local communities in international heritage law.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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