Historic Town of Vigan

Historic Town of Vigan, proposed by Philippines as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: cultural mapping project; establishment of City Public Safety and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office; involvement of all stakeholders including local communities; Save Vigan Ancestral Homeowners Association; school for traditional building crafts; intangible heritage and cultural awareness; promotion of sustainable development and use of local resources.

Summary provided by State Party

Vigan City, through the World Heritage Convention, was able to organize and empower the local community to become primary stakeholders and keepers of their tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The sustainability of Vigan’s conservation management lies in its ability to engage the local stakeholders – the owners of the heritage houses, teaching institutions, artists and craftsmen, and business owners to instill the value of their heritage, which stems from being the primary trading post in Northern Philippines during the Spanish era. Throughout the decades, the local government has maintained its focal position in engaging all stakeholders and leading development through heritage conservation-based policies. This strategy may be useful for other sites as Vigan has proven that empowering the community and the local stakeholders is key on ensuring that they are committed in conserving heritage as they are its primary guardians.

Heritage appreciation is instilled early on with the incorporation of heritage education in the formal education system. Local organizations, such as the Homeowners Associations are engaged through capacity building measures which enable them to repair and restore their houses by means that are compliant with conservation standards and are cost-effective.

The development of heritage-based tourism and the empowerment of local artisans and craftsmen have been likewise key in ensuring a self-sustaining city, where revenue is both generated for the private individuals to fund the maintenance of historic buildings and for the city, to ensure that the machineries to monitor conservation and sustainably develop the site are in place.

Vigan believes that development is only feasible if heritage is considered. Every step in improving the quality of life of the community must be based in heritage. Participative governance is one of the city’s strategic themes. Biguenos (Vigan locals) are empowered through their participation in the planning and implementation of programs and projects. This gives the people a sense of ownership that makes them committed in ensuring the successful implementation of the project. As primary stakeholders, they are more aware and more involved in the task of heritage preservation.

Preserving heritage is a task that requires vigilance. Vigilance being one of its core values, the city government has put upon itself to see to it that its efforts towards preserving its heritage shall not be in vain. The efforts towards sustainable development ensure the protection not only of the old buildings but also the historic district. The festivals and cultural events, organized by the city government are ways of inculcating into the minds of the people a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership of their intangible heritage.

To date, Vigan proves to be a primary destination in Northern Philippines, where visitors marvel at a glimpse of the Philippines’ past and enthuse on seeing that heritage conservation and progress are possible through sustainable development.

There is an established and efficiently operated comprehensive legal system of administration and interaction between the key partners of the Kazan Kremlin, either municipal, republican, or federal structures, societal and religious organisations, foundations, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and universities.

The status of the Kazan Kremlin as a World Heritage site, the world’s only acting centre of the Tatar state culture and public authority of Tatarstan as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation, the historical, architectural, and artistic museum reserve, and its steady multi-channel financing have created a unique opportunity of initiating an innovative management system which have ensured the best resource management and the dialectic synergy of conservation, restoration, preservation, regeneration, and sustainable development of this area.

Being elaborated on the basis of the political, cultural, natural, environmental, geological, archaeological, historical, town-planning, architectural, engineering, restoration, legal, and economic analysis, the Strategy of Integrated Conservation and Development of the Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin made it possible to implement further actions under the Action Program and to ensure the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Kazan Kremlin. Resulting from the intercommunion of Bolgar, Golden Horde, Kazan Tatar, Russian and present-day Tatar cultures, the Kazan Kremlin and a number of its key properties, including the Annunciation Cathedral (16th to 19th centuries) and the Kul-Sharif Mosque (late 20th century) situated in several metres from each other, are a vivid evidence of the cross-cultural dialogue and cultural diversity under the conditions of multi-confessional and polyethnic society and world globalisation, tolerance in Tatarstan and Russia, and of pilgrimage development.

Interaction and interdependence, the correctly chosen combination of restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation tied in a general concept, has allowed creating an integrated museum system of a new type, united with a common idea of discovering a role of Tatarstan and diversity of its historical, cultural, and natural heritage in the history of the Russian Federation, Eurasia, the world in general, its contribution to the world culture, complying with latest international standards and disclosing the potential of the Kazan Kremlin as a World Heritage site. The rescue archaeological excavations and regular scientific archaeological researches have made it possible to work out a new methodology and to prove the thousand-year history of Kazan, Yelabuga and some other cities of Russia and Tatarstan. This methodology has been approved by the Russian Academy of Sciences, Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, public authorities of Tatarstan and Russia.

The best practices of interaction between the key partners of the Kazan Kremlin, high personnel potential of the Museum Reserve, educational, competence and adaptation programs, intensive introduction of cultural, scientific, and pilgrimage tourism, promotion of the Kazan Kremlin as a tourist brand and product – all this allows a wide involvement of people in Tatarstan and Russia to the comprehensive preservation of the World Heritage site, its incorporation in the present-day life within the framework of the State policies of economic and social development of Tatarstan and Russia.

The combination of traditional (scientific conferences, museum events, tourist sightseeing, website development and updates, etc.) and innovative (information and navigation systems, QR codes, interactive booths and screens, historical reconstruction events, creation of “live” museums, holding of massive cultural festivals and projects, such as the Long Night of Museums and Kremlin Live) methods has made it possible to bring the work on the conservation and popularisation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Kazan Kremlin to a new level.

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.