World Heritage Cities Programme June 2020

World Heritage Cities Programme

Urban Notebooks

Newsletter June 2020

Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun (China);
Author: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent; © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent



     As the infection rates of the new corona virus decline, many countries have started to emerge from the prolonged lockdown hoping for a quick return back to ‘normal’. What do ‘recovery’ and ‘normalcy’ mean when the pandemic continues and we must learn to live with it? In many cities businesses have started to open up with new regulations around social distancing and innovative solutions for delivery of services. However, lockdowns and social distancing are simply unaffordable to many communities. Furthermore, the near absence of international travel and the sudden halt in tourism has impacted revenues and livelihoods in World Heritage Cities among others.

     In this moment, it may perhaps be both possible and necessary that historic cities refocus attention on their local communities and their well-being. Perhaps, a small fraction of the cost of grand development projects to attract tourists might serve to create healthful public green spaces. Community gardens and local produce might find an opportunity to thrive as much as small, family run restaurants, small enterprises with artisanal products, and festivals with and for local creatives. In addition to the digital dissemination of museum collections, oral history projects and storytellers might engage young people in learning about and connecting with their histories. Many historic cities, such as Paris, are already taking steps to reduce vehicular traffic while increasing pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists. Such culture-led strategies in World Heritage Cities could be people-centred, reinforce the attributes of urban heritage identity, and contribute to making the cities inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.

     We invite you to join us in reflecting, rethinking, and reimagining solutions collectively. Join us for the webinar on ‘Rethinking Urban Heritage for Recovery and Resilience’ on 17 June (details below).

Jyoti Hosagrahar
Deputy Director, World Heritage Centre

From UNESCO World Heritage Centre

World Heritage site closures
and re-openings - Update

While some World heritage sites are slowly re-opening their doors to visitors, UNESCO continues monitoring the situation through its global map on the closure of World Heritage sites due to COVID-19 and analysis.

See the Map

Culture & COVID-19:
Impact and Response Tracker

To address the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the culture sector, UNESCO has launched a weekly “Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker” to provide an overview of the rapidly evolving situation. It explores both the immediate impact of the health crisis and examples of how countries around the world are adapting to the situation. This is one of several initiatives by the Organization to respond to the impact of the pandemic on the cultural sector worldwide.

Learn more

UNESCO is calling on inspiring voices across the globe to help us imagine the world to come

From May 2020, and still in the face of COVID-19, UNESCO is leading the reflection on what the future should look like.

Learn more

Explore initiatives & stories from UNESCO networks

UNESCO partners and teams join forces against COVID-19, to bring out the best in our shared humanity through culture, information and solidarity. Featuring numerous World Heritage site and cities among others, UNESCO has created a global map on the different initiatives taking place worldwide.

Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19

On 18 May were celebrated the International Museum Day. UNESCO recently launched a new Report on Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19, fruit of an international survey targeting museums, culture professionals and Member States. The study reveals that museums have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as 90% of them closed their doors during the crisis and, according to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), more than 10% may never reopen.

The World Heritage Site Museums have all been impacted by the closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic as much as the cities themselves. Museums are important places in the cultural and economic life of many World Heritage Cities, if not one of their main cores, such as the Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Berlin, a World Heritage property in its own. Explore a reflection on reimagining museums for the future.

Learn more 

See report

Visit the Little Artists Exhibition

The Little Artists Exhibition received a tremendous response all over the world. We received 572 contributions from children 6-12 in 55 different countries presenting 154 World Heritage Properties.

These creative and festive artworks are exhibited online. We invite you to disseminate this collection and to let yourself be inspired by these young artists` colourful visions of our common heritage.

Visit the exhibition

ResiliArt goes global

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted those working in the culture sector. Since its launch, the ResiliArt movement has received an enthusiastic welcome and is rapidly spreading worldwide. Regional debates have been organized daily in different parts of the world. Cultural industry professionals are encouraged to join the movement and replicate the ResiliArt series in their respective regions with a thematic focus by following publicly available guidelines (at the bottom of this page).

“The Road to Recovery” debate took place on 14 May, in partnership with International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD) and International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

“ResiliArt #DontGoViral”. On 25 May, and in partnership with France 24 and the Innovation for Policy Foundation, UNESCO placed music and the fight against COVID-19 at the heart of Africa Day celebration with a special edition of ResiliArt with focus on the #DontGoViral campaign. 

Learn more and watch the debate

Learn more about the different ResiliArt activities and upcoming debates.  

We celebrated the African World Heritage day (5 May)

African World Heritage Day was adopted by UNESCO in 2015 as an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate the continent's unique cultural and natural heritage. Through this international day, UNESCO aims to increase global awareness of African heritage, with a special focus on youth, and to mobilise enhanced cooperation for its safeguarding on the local, regional and global level.

Due to COVID-19, 90% of World Heritage sites around the globe are closed or partially closed, and many of them are in Africa. As African World Heritage sites cope with the current situation, they are also looking ahead to the post-COVID time and planning for the short and long-term. World Heritage Cities in Africa present unique attributes linked to traditional social structures, adaptation of foreign knowledge to local conditions, sustainable construction techniques and climate adaptation that provide important lessons facing this challenging time. The 2020 edition of African World Heritage Day celebrated the theme “Youth, Entrepreneurship and Heritage Sustainability in Africa” with several special initiatives in partnership with the African World Heritage Fund.

"At a time of crisis, anxiety and uncertainty, the world’s cultural and natural heritage is an invaluable resource that fuels our resilience, helps us find solutions, and brightens the future. This is the role that the African World Heritage, celebrated on this Day, can play for the African populations as well as for humanity as a whole. "

— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, on the occasion of African World Heritage Day

Download the complete message in PDF format English | Français | Español | Русский | العربية | 中文  

Learn more about the related activities

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Held every year on 21 May, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development celebrates not only the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development.

"Although COVID-19 has not succeeded in curbing dialogue among cultures, the long-term consequences of the crisis, especially in economic terms, might inflict severe damage on diversity, as periods of crisis are conducive to concentration and standardization. It is this insidious threat that looms."

— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Download the complete message in PDF format English | Français | Español | Русский | العربية | 中文

Learn more

UNESCO celebrates the power of art and education across the globe

As the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO is spotlighting the incredible power and resilience of human creativity during the 2020 International Arts Education Week.

Learn more

Upcoming Events

World Heritage City Lab Webinar

The on-going global health crisis due to the COVID-19 has brought sharply into focus the fragility of our cities. We stand at the cross-roads to consider pathways to recovery and enhancing the resilience of people everywhere. In light of the new challenges that the current health crisis has presented to cities worldwide, UNESCO introduces its World Heritage City Lab Webinar on ‘Re-thinking Urban Heritage for Resilience and Recovery.’

As a part of the World Heritage Cities Programme, and in line with the implementation of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, the World Heritage City Lab aims to recover the notion of heritage cities as thriving urban centres using heritage-based strategies to build back the cities to be stronger, more sustainable, more resilient, and more deeply connected to their histories and landscape.

The World Heritage City Lab Webinar will be held on 17 June 2020 online 13:00h – 15:00h (CET). An international panel of World Heritage City Mayors and experts will share their views and experiences.

Visit the World Heritage Cities Programme for further details.

This event will be live-streamed so join us on 17 June

World Heritage City Dialogues-July

The World Heritage City Dialogues will be continuing in July bringing together Site Managers in the World Heritage Cities and strengthening our international community. Next month we will hold two Dialogue sessions, for the Arab States and Latin America and the Caribbean regions. If you are a Site Manager or a Focal Point, keep us updated with current contact details, and share with us the specific topics and ideas you would like to discuss during the Dialogues.

NUS and UNESCO establish Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia

On 12 May 2020, Professor Ho Puay Peng was appointed as the Chairholder of the newly established UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia, at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Under the moto “Conserving our heritage for future generations” Prof Ho, Head of Department of Architecture at the NUS School of Design and Environment, has extensive experience working as a conservation consultant, architect and adviser to some 100 conservation projects in Singapore and Hong Kong, and serving on multiple international committees.

Learn more 

City Focus

A corner for colleagues to share their challenges and initiatives.
Share yours!

Medina of Fez

Salma Daoui, Site Manager of the Medina of Fez (Morocco), explained the rich cultural life of the historic city, her vision of the site as an “open museum,” and the challenges the medina is facing in times of COVID-19.

Watch the video 


Matthias Ripp, Site Manager of the Old town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof (Germany) shared with us his impressions during lock-down due to COVID-19 pandemic. When a city such as Regensburg has long been an international city, a meeting point for people from different cultures, how do the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of international travel impact the identity of the site? Now that sites are gradually re-opening, how places like Regensburg reimagine themselves as meeting points in the future? 

Watch the video

See other Site Manager videos

UNESCO has gathered experiences and impressions from Site Managers of World Heritage Cities from all over the world during the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to their stories here. 

Sharing Practice

The team of the Cultural Heritage Management Office of the Historic Centre of Puebla (Mexico) has shared with us a series of inspiring projects developed during 2020:

1. Maintenance works have been carried out in public spaces, including facades, artistic lightning and pedestrian structures. For example, sidewalks, mainly made of historical slab, are being corrected and adapted for better mobility and accessibility.

2. A Heritage Education Program promotes the dissemination and enhancement of the city's cultural heritage. One of its central tools is the magazine “Cuetlaxcoapan. Enfoque al Patrimonio”, publishing academic articles on not so known topics about the city.

3. Educational services related to heritage are offered to local communities for free in public spaces of the traditional neighbourhoods of the historic centre.

4. In addition to the Monuments Area, tangible heritage (mainly religious) has been catalogued within the Juntas Auxiliares of Puebla´s municipality, whose territorial division dates back to Pre-Hispanic times. In order to reinforce and emphasize Puebla´s heritage values, and to promote the long-term maintenance of these sites, a guide for preventive conservation of religious sites, named as "Patrimonio edificado de uso religioso en las Juntas Auxiliares del municipio de Puebla. Guía de conservación preventiva" was published. The purpose of this publication is to guide those responsible for their upkeep on appropriate conservation measures. 

They also share other actions in the World Heritage city taken in response to the on-going pandemic:

• Preventive cleaning and sanitation against COVID 19 in multiple public spaces at Puebla´s Historic Centre

• Virtual “Museums Night”

• Partial closure of the Historic Centre to non-essential transit

• Temporary closure of hotels and establishments in the Historic Centre.


Reflections of an Expert

Special message from Donatius Kamamba

Watch the video
Living with the COVID-19
Pandemic in the cities of Africa

Heritage cities in most African countries are places of fortune for the youth, in various ways. Heritage cities in Africa, like Zanzibar, Asmara, Mombasa, Timbuktu and others only to mention a few, have been attracting young people not only because of job opportunities that are available but also because of the modern facilities that are found in these urban environments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to almost all economic and social sectors all over the African continent due to restrictions in access to goods and services in the efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts towards providing and sustaining jobs as well as necessary supplies and assets have also been disrupted. Effects are vividly visible in areas such as transportation, use of public spaces, tourism, culture, and governance.

The lockdown strategy, a trend adopted by many developed countries, is challenging to enforce in Africa. Some countries have made it clear that the lockdown strategy, in some cities, might be impossible or difficult to implement. In such cases, it is necessary to consider alternative practical solutions to restrict movement and personal interaction among the African urban communities. In African cities we observe that:

• Most of the socio-economic opportunities are in cities;

• Most urban communities in Africa are poor in financial and material resources,

• Urban survival depends on day to day income through daily activities,

• The pandemic is likely to be here to stay for months

Hence, the lockdown strategy has to be reviewed in some cases as we learn to live with the COVID-19 corona virus. In view of the above, African urban authorities should be encouraged to undertake as soon as possible, an impact assessment to address not only the short term impacts but also to devise strategies in the longer term. These may include expansion of digital technologies, discussions on a holistic digital cultural economy and plans to support culture and revitalize human contact when it is safe to do so.

The assessment of the COVID-19 impacts, among other things, will include the effects of the pandemic on the values and attributes of culture on the heritage cities. It is expected that after the COVID-19 pandemic, these attributes and elements of culture might acclimatize themselves to new norms and behaviours. Hence, the impact of this crisis on the cultural sector is not to be understated and the African heritage cities will definitely look different after the lifting of these exceptional restrictions.

In conclusion governments in Africa be encouraged to develop:

• A forum of experts in the African continent to discuss ways of developing an awareness program using new and emerging technologies so as to keep the governments knowledgeable on the best methodologies for handling such pandemics;

• Exchange of information and opinions in a continent-wide partnership through discussions and dialogues towards establishing a shared strategy that considers inclusive participation enriched by cultural varieties and attributes;

• A culture of learning on ways to live with the new corona virus.

Donatius Kamamba,
Part time Lecturer, University of Dar Es Salaam,
May 2020  

Publications of interest

Empowering Youth for Heritage

On 6 May the Director of the World Heritage Centre, launched the UNESCO publication “Empowering Youth for Heritage”. Dedicated to the World Heritage Volunteers Initiative (WHV). This was followed by a series of Webinars to support and build the capacities of the WHV-implementing organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Educating for Sustainable Development through Heritage Interpretation

The report on the main outcomes of the second regional workshop for Europe on “The Role of Visitor Centres in UNESCO Designated Sites” held in Bamberg, Germany, on 6-8 October 2019 has been released. Organized by UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, the workshop focused on the interplay between heritage interpretation and education for sustainable development and on their integration in the work of such centres.

Culture and Sustainable Development

A new publication by the Spanish Network for Sustainable Development (REDS / SDSN-Spain) has been launched with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Spain. It presents interesting reflections on the role of culture in supporting the 2030 Agenda.

Ref: MARTINELL (coord.) et al. Cultura y Desarrollo Sostenible. Aportaciones al debate sobre la dimensión cultural de la Agenda 2030, REDS, Madrid, 2020 (in Spanish)

Browse the publication

Our partners


The ICCROM “Heritage in Times of COVID” platform will be soon adding “Post-crisis recovery and tools for the future” to their list of “Tips and Resources”:

1. Ensuring Safety of Personnel from COVID-19

2. Tools for Identifying Risks, Monitoring Impacts, Assessing Needs

3. Preparing for Closure of Heritage Sites and Institutions

4. First Aid to Collections

5. Ensuring Business Continuity

6. How to support cultural bearers, artists, and crafts persons during and following the COVID outbreak

7. Post-crisis recovery and tools for the futur

The ICCROM Lecture Series is also available online on topics:
“Heritage and Pandemics: analysing an unfolding crisis”
“Protecting People and their Heritage in Times of COVID”
“Heritage and Pandemics: Reopening and Adapting Heritage Places During a Pandemic”

Watch the lectures


UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments) has recently launched a decalogue for the post COVID-19 era.

Watch the video

Browse the publication

World Monuments Fund

The World Monuments Fund hosted the online discussion “Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis” addressing the role of heritage sites in the future to come following the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow the exchange between Bénédicte de Montlaur, Tristram Hunt, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Yasmeen Lari, the Fukuoka Prize winner and Pakistan’s first female architect, and Barry Bergdoll, scholar and curator. 

Watch the video


Vacancy: Director of Edinburgh World Heritage

Edinburgh World Heritage is looking to appoint a new Director to build on the many achievements of this independent charity under its current Director, Adam Wilkinson, and lead Edinburgh World Heritage in the next stage of its development. Edinburgh World Heritage plays a central role in the management and protection of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.

See the vacancy announcement

Room for thought


How will Covid-19 change urban heritage conservation and management approaches?

What changes are you expecting in your site?

How could we support colleagues though our international community?

Share your thoughts and concerns with us!
Send us your questions by email for discussion during City Dialogues

Guidelines for Contributions


Urban Notebooks is a way for World Heritage Cities to share up-to-date information and innovative practices and opportunities around the world.

Please share with us your achievements and innovations, your challenges and projects. Share with us the initiatives and activities related to culture in your city in response to the COVID-19. Please share opportunities as well. Your contributions will make the Urban Notebooks better.

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photos, videos, projects, activities, publications

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Find the form for submissions here (English/French) and Grant of Rights document (English/French)

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the City of Nanjing