Suzhou Declaration
on International Co-operation for the
Safeguarding and Development of Historic Cities

Suzhou, April 9, 1998

Considering the importance of the preservation of historic cities and the national and international responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention, given the necessity to disseminate information, the participants of the International Conference for Mayors of Historic Cities in China and the European Union focused their attention on the reconciliation of the preservation of historic cities with social requirements and economic development and the need to find solutions or options for the future in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.

The mayors or their representatives from 15 Chinese and 7 European Union cities met in Suzhou, China, from 7 to 9 April 1998.

The participants reaffirmed the commitment made by the national authorities of their respective countries to the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) and recalled the Recommendation concerning the Protection at National Level of the Cultural and Natural Heritage, both adopted on 16 November 1972 by the General Conference of UNESCO, and the Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas, adopted on 26 November 1976 by the General Conference of UNESCO, and the Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private Works, adopted on 19 November 1968 by the General Conference of UNESCO.

The participants recalled furthermore Agenda Twenty One of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro on 1992 and the Habitat Agenda of the City Summit-Habitat II held in Istanbul in 1996 and noted the Action Plan on Cultural Policies for Development adopted by the Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development held in Stockholm on 2 April 1998.

The participants also recognized the increasingly important role of mayors and local authorities in the implementation of the above instruments and documents and reaffirm on 9 April 1998 that:

In an era of globalization and rapid transformation of cities, the identity of the city itself and of its inhabitants remain enshrined in its historic districts and their culture, the preservation and continued existence of which forms an essential element of the development of the city as a whole. The mayors and their representatives therefore will aim to:

  1. act in accordance with the spirit and content of articles 4 and 5 of UNESCO's Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972;

  2. develop an effective conservation policy particularly through urban planning measures to preserve and rehabilitate historic urban districts, respecting their authenticity, both because they retain the collective memory of cultures and because such districts provide the inhabitants with a sense of continuity of civilization from the past into the future on which sustainable development is based;

  3. use their best endeavors to promote sustainable development of historic cities, towns and districts of different cultures, ecological environments in different stages of evolution by providing resources and infrastructures for the flourishing of culture in all its diversity;

  4. develop systems of legal protection and a planning framework to safeguard and enhance the value of historic urban districts, not only by legislation, but also by providing the inhabitants financial and technical means which encourage conservation and restoration using traditional construction materials and in respecting cultural diversity;

  5. develop a policy for public services and social housing in harmony with the traditional urban fabric, and when possible, by the adaptive re-use of existing buildings;

  6. advocate transportation enlargement policies which favour pedestrianisation of historic districts and which link the historic districts with surrounding areas;

  7. prevent environmental pollution through appropriate technological, regulatory, economic and fiscal measures;

  8. promote economic and social policies which ensure that historic districts play a key role in the city's development;

  9. ensure that tourism respects cultures, the environment and the lifestyle of the local population and that a fair share of the income it generates be allocated to preserve heritage and strengthen cultural development;

  10. preserve and promote the intangible cultural heritage as an inseparable component of the physical environment;

  11. establish programmes of public awareness and education to facilitate consultations with local inhabitants and full public participation in heritage conservation;

  12. obtain maximum effectiveness of these policies and implement them through programmes of public and private partnership;

  13. develop programmes of co-operation to implement these policies, and for this purpose, to seek with UNESCO, the European Union and others, the support of their respective national as well as regional authorities and other entities to develop projects of decentralized cooperation between the local authorities of China and those of the European Union and opt to enlarge this agreement by inviting the participation of other Chinese and European cities and countries throughout the world.