Chair on Heritage Futures

Our Common Agenda


Today I have been contributing to a Real-Time Delphi Study of The Millennium Project on foresight elements of the 2021 UN report Our Common Agenda.

The report makes several suggestions related to foresight. Here are my responses:

A Summit on the Future:

Such a Summit on the Future will draw global attention to foresight and futures thinking generally (much like the Rio Earth summit did).

The Summit on the Future needs to involve more than politicians, lobbyists, expert scientists, and celebrity activists. It should also involve a selection of ordinary people reflecting on their own lives and their cultural practices (I mean cultural in the ethnographic sense describing how people make sense of the world and live their lives accordingly). They will represent the billions of ordinary people.

A UN Futures Lab:

Include the theme of culture and how it may evolve in future decades, e.g. in the context of climate change and resulting migration, urbanisation, longer life expectancy, artificial intelligence, globalism, periodically shifting values. At the moment, culture is ignored in foresight and cultural practitioners ignore foresight themselves – as culture is widely assumed to be timeless (wrongly as we see in hindsight).

A Special Envoy for Future Generations:

Research shows that representatives (proxies) of future generations can sharpen decision-makers’ sensitivity to presentism, i.e. making decisions while assuming that the status quo is timeless and all futures will resemble the present. They can also support long-term thinking in decision-making.

See e.g. Kamijo, Y., Komiya, A., Mifune, N., & Saijo, T. (2017). Negotiating with the future: Incorporating imaginary future generations into negotiations. Sustainability Science, 12(3), 409–420. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0419-8

Otten, M. (2018). Strong external representation of future generations: Legitimate and effective (Unpublished Masters Thesis.) Department of Philosophy, University of Leiden. http://hdl.handle.net/1887/65949 .

Other suggestions:

Introduce Futures as a school subject.

Cultural Heritage and Wellbeing



As part of the EUniWell Open Lecture Series, Prof. Cornelius Holtorf presented on 24 March 2022 on

“Cultural Heritage, Well-being and the Future”


Cultural heritage is often assumed to be of timeless value. But over recent decades, cultural heritage has been fundamentally reconceptualised in global policies. Whereas for about two centuries, cultural heritage was usually appreciated as a tangible token of collective histories, usually connected to ideas linked to Romantic Nationalism, now we see a different paradigm gradually taken over: cultural heritage is increasingly valued in relation to the intangible impacts and uses it has for specific communities. In this context, the concept of wellbeing has become central, and I will give a few concrete examples what that means for cultural heritage. Taking this development even further, cultural heritage in global contexts is today most commonly addressed within the framework of sustainable development. Yet political bodies such as the UN and national governments (even those embracing wellbeing) are still locked into older perceptions and often fail to embrace fully the ‘new’ cultural heritage. The UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures is contributing to changing this by focusing on how cultural heritage can best benefit future generations.

The lecture was recorded and will be available online soon.

Mondiacult and Our Common Agenda


Cornelius Holtorf was invited to address the regional online consultation for Europe and North America ahead of the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development (Mondiacult) to be held 28-30 September 2022 in Mexico.

Introduced by Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Minister of Culture and Media of Croatia, Cornelius had 3 minutes to address the 100+ high-level participants, including several Ministers of Culture and senior officials from national governments, supranational organizations and NGOs throughout Europe and North America.

As part of a session on Strengthening synergies between culture and education for human-centred development and sustainability, he took the opportunity to advocate for the importance of foresight and futures literacy in the culture and heritage sectors to be better prepared for the challenges of the future, as proposed in the UN Director-General’s recent report on “Our Common Agenda”.

He also pointed to the significance of culture and heritage for promoting an agenda of global solidarity and trust both within and between societies, likewise in line with the UN Director-General’s agenda but in his report unfortunately not linked to culture or heritage.