The international experts meeting "Heritage in Urban Contexts: Impacts of Development Projects on World Heritage properties in Cities" is underway at Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.

It is co-sponsored by Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs and Kyushu University in cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM.

In recent sessions of the World Heritage Committee, there have been increasing reports of cases where a worrying pattern of situations affecting heritage sites in urban contexts has emerged. Hence, it is urgently expected and internationally significant to deepen a methodology to identify and evaluate the values of heritage properties in urban contexts. One of the issues flagged during the discussion on the state of conservation of properties during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku was the urgent need for developing of strategies and guidance for better integration of Management Plans for World Heritage sites in the urban development plans and processes (Decision 43 COM 7.3). Previous World Heritage Committee Decisions have also identified the need for better addressing urban development pressures in and around World Heritage properties. In order to respond to this task, the Government of Japan offered to host an experts meeting to discuss and establish a methodology to support this initiative and the World Heritage Committee welcomed this offer.

The Experts Meeting

The text of the UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL Recommendation) identifies four types of new tools to support the implementation of its principles: (a) Civic engagement tools, (b) Knowledge and planning tools, (c) Regulatory systems, and (d) Financial tools. In order to focus on main issues, the Expert Workshop will consider diverse types of tools, such as the definition of heritage attributes in the urban context. These components are critical in enhancing the management of change as an integral part of urban conservation and establishing guidelines for it.

Key questions

Key questions and panels have been structured around questions like:

  • When development projects are proposed in and around heritage cities and heritage sites in cities, what kind of information or data concerning the proposed projects are needed to assess their potential impacts on the values (in the case of the World Heritage, the Outstanding Universal Value)?
  • What methodologies exist for assessing the value of heritage?
  • Who are the key stakeholders or the key beneficiaries who will pay the greatest cost?
  • What could an integrated approach to conservation and development look like?

By engaging on these components, it will be possible to further develop a specific methodology and promote detailed guidelines.


The experts meeting is focusing on ways to assess the impact on the OUV and heritage values of development projects in and around World Heritage properties in cities.

This is considered in the context of:

  1. guidance documents for the implementation of the HUL Recommendation (Decision 39 COM 11)
  2. strategies and guidance for better integration of Management Plans for urban World Heritage properties in the urban development plans and processes (Decision 43 COM 7.3)
  3. Implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 11, and the New Urban Agenda at the local level.


In this context, the attention focuses on the application of the Recommendation to address ‘the broader setting’ and on the implementation of the HUL Recommendation (adopted by the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2011) to address “the need to better integrate and frame urban heritage conservation strategies with the larger goals of overall sustainable development…”. This UNESCO standard-setting instrument responds to concerns and threats of transformation of urban areas and their settings due to rapid and uncontrolled development including large development projects. It proposes new policies, standards, and principles to balance the increasing pressures of cities on people and the planet, and to bring a shift of attitude to the conservation and management of cultural heritage to enable better integration of cultural heritage conservation in national and urban development policies.

Following the results of the Second Consolidated Report (2019) on the implementation of the HUL Recommendation by Member States, as well as looking at the outcome of several debates and discussion of experts since 2011, (for eg. International Expert Meeting in Shanghai, China, 26-28 March 2018), there is a clear need to articulate specific tools for assessment of impacts of new developments on heritage in the urban context.

Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda and World Heritage:

Relationships between heritage and urban issues are complex, and touch on social and economic as well as cultural factors as highlighted in target 11.4 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda). This target defends that the safeguarding of heritage is essential to make our cities “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Moreover, the UNESCO Executive Board in its 206th session and later on the 40th General Conference, reaffirmed the importance of the HUL Recommendation and of its implementation by Member States, in particular in the context of the 2030 Agenda, the UNHabitat New Urban Agenda.

Impact Assessment

The existing Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) process in cases of development proposals in and around Cultural World Heritage sites is currently available as guidance issued by ICOMOS developed in 2008 and updated in 2011. It has become apparent that a broader focus is required for heritage properties in cities where various complex urban factors apply. With the ongoing revision of Impact Assessment being carried out cooperatively with ICCROM, IUCN, World Heritage Centre, and ICOMOS to revise the assessment guidelines to better assess impacts on urban heritage, there is a need, as a first step, to develop methods that identify attributes and that establish the value judgments that apply to heritage in urban contexts.

Further Reading

Related websites
Historic Urban Landscape
State of Conservation (SOC) information system
World Heritage Cities Programme


UNHabitat Action Framework for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda
UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape
ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas 1987
ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Charter – Managing Tourism at Places of Cultural Significance 1999
ICOMOS Xi’an Declaration on the Setting of Heritage Structures, Sites and Areas 2005
ICOMOS The Valetta Principles for the Safeguarding and Management of Historic Cities, Towns and Urban areas 2011
ICOMOS The Paris Declaration on Heritage as a Driver of Development 2011


ICOMOS, 2011, Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessment for World Heritage Properties 2011
IUCN, 2013 World Heritage advice note: environmental assessment
UNESCO, 2019, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention