The cultural heritage as a key for development of a strong creative economy in Serbia

 At recent  II Creative Economy forum,  held in partnership of the Creative Economy Group and Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, under the auspices of the United States Embassy in Serbia, it was estimated that the cultural  heritage was a key for the development of a strong and sustainable creative society and economy in Serbia; thus the cultural heritage must be recognized as a developmental potential, and should be treated in that way in the development agenda of Serbia….

 The Palace of Serbia was full, and 27 discussants from 170 Forum’s participants took part in the discussions held through three sessions. Among the main speakers of this year Forum were Donovan Rypkema from the Heritage Strategies International, Dr Cristina Luke, from the University of Boston, who is also associate of the Archaeological Institute of America, John Drew Giblin,  cultural attaché  of the United States Embassy in Serbia, Ivan Tasovac,  Minister of Culture and Information of Serbia, Hristina Mikić, director of the Creative Economy Group, Estela Radonjić Živkov from the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in Serbia, Asja Drača Muntean, Deputy Minister of Culture for International Cooperation and EU projects, Dr Gojko Rikalović, professor at Faculty of Economics in  Belgrade, Vladimir Milenković, vice president of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Irena Vojackov Sollorano, resident UN coordinator in Serbia.

The Forum was opened by  Hristina Mikić, director of the Creative Economy Group, Michael Kirby,  U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia and Ivan Tasovac, Minister of Culture and Information of Serbia.

Ms. Hristina Mikić pointed out that “Cultural heritage provides a cultural continuity, the process of identifying and strengthening specific identity within the community, but it is also a knowledge base for the development of a creative society and economy, and therefore has great significance in the creative economy.”According to her,Serbia now has officially protected around 2,500 cultural monuments, while estimates state that that there are significantly more resources to be protected.Very few of them have developed management plan and strategy for their meaningful and contemporary economic use.In broader sense, around 5,588 people are employed in the heritage sector.  The annual investment in cultural heritage from national resources ranges around 16.5 to 18 million Euros… “This generally shows that cultural heritage has been  recognized as a very important issue  for Serbian society and economy, but to us, however there is a still much to be done to unblock its potential,  to connect with the creative industries and to build  a powerful national creative economy “, Ms. Mikić explained.

Mr. Tasovac emphasized it was a great pleasure for him to participate in the Creative Economy Forum and  said this was another significant step in recognizing culture as an important resource for the sustainable development of our society.”Cultural heritage is not a burden, it is rather one of the largest and so far not fully utilized development potentials of Serbia,” said Mr. Tasovac and added that “… capacity building of cultural professionals and relevant institutions should enable the development of this particular potential, which implies that together with the protection of cultural heritage  has been widely used its development element.To achieve this goal, this area must constantly adapt to modern trends and the needs of the society.”

Ambassador Kirby said that we should develop public-private partnerships as a new model of work in creative sector in Serbia and stressed that “Serbia has a huge and important cultural heritage, and it should be used as a potential for the economic development of the country”, and he also reminded that “there is  a large number of beautiful monasteries in Serbia, but also examples of modern art.”

Participants from the United States of America, Dr Christina Luke, Donovan Rypkema and John Drew Giblin, presented the US approach and experience in linking the cultural heritage, creative economy and cultural diplomacy. Mr. Rypkema, a leading expert on rehabilitation projects, said there was a need to think beyond the classical models of economic valuation of heritage, such as tourism, but actually to put the focus on linking cultural heritage and creative industries.

During the National session “Cultural heritage as a socio-economic key to the development of Serbia” participants stated it was crucial to treat this sector in systematic way as to development resource, and to develop a strategy for the protection and economic use of cultural heritage. At the beginning of the session, Ms. Mikic presented the results of research of development aspects of cultural heritage in Serbia over the past 10 years. She said that the biggest challenge in the field of heritage were large budget deficit and difficult economic situation in the country, the absence of strategic approach in this area, outdated regulations inconsistent to the conventions of the Council of Europe and UNESCO, the protection which appears only at the level of technical protection and system of the heritage funding. Ms. Mikic emphasized that the key issues for heritage in Serbia were in the field of management and financing, and that both problems would be solved through “transition from the classical model of technical protection to a management approach based on values of heritage, their conservation and management, and then to the living heritage approach that puts people and the community in the center, and treats heritage as an inseparable part of the community.”

Mr. Vladimir Marinković, the vice president of National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia said that the heritage was the key resource for building-up of a creative society and economy, and that kind of gatherings and forums, as well as development of a strategy for this sector, certainly would lead to a new heritage approach so that it can provide the best results in terms of socio-economic development of Serbia.

Ms. Asja Drača Muntean, Deputy Minister of Culture in Sector for International Cooperation and European Integration stated that Serbia had already begun the process of developmental  treatment  of cultural   heritage through theCouncil of Europe  Regional   Programme  on Cultural and Natural Heritage in South-East Europe which was now being called”Ljubljana Process 2″,  and it would be even more successful if new models and standards were applied in the evaluation and interpretation of heritage.

Ms. Estela Radonjić Živkov, from The Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia and national coordinator of Ljubljana Process 2, the Council of Europe / EU / TFCS’s project, referred to a number of problems in the field of protection, and expressed possible solutions for the future. She pointed out that Institutes had no short or long-term plans, and the protection campaigns occured mainly under the auspices of some celebrations, and added that large amounts of money were often spent without specific ideas, and consequently the results failed. She added that “the basic principles established in The Venice Charter are not respected in the process of conservation, much has been discussed about the long-outdated problems, and depending on the political environment the specific types of heritage have been favored, while others have been neglected.” Ms. Radonjić-Živkov said it was necessary “to undertake a preliminary assessment of rehabilitation potential of heritage resources as possible solutions to these problems and unblocking of the developmental potential of heritage. Based on that, planning of resources and directing of rehabilitation should be approached, with introduction of a strategic approaches in the work of the Institutes for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, passing of new law, work on greater professionalization in the sector, while institutionalizing IPSARH methodology. All these should begin with drafting of the umbrella strategy for the protection and economic use of cultural heritage”.