World Heritage Cities Programme March 2021

World Heritage Cities Programme

Urban Notebooks

Newsletter March 2021

Historic City of Yazd (Islamic Republic of Iran);
Aerial View, Jame Mosque; Author: S.H. Rashedi; © ICHHTO     


Dear Readers,

     Women make up half of the population of cities everywhere, including historic cities. Not only conservation efforts and development interventions but also neglect, loss, and destruction of heritage, impact women as much as men, and often in different ways. Of course, this varies vastly across different cultures and sites. Yet, it has been simply assumed that women’s experience is identical to that of men. As a result, we have an inadequate understanding of the relationship of women to heritage conservation, their role in conservation, and the impacts of development interventions and heritage loss on them. How can historic cities better recognise the contribution of women, include them in decision-making, and listen to their voices?

     8 March was International Women’s Day 2021 with the theme, ‘Women in leadership: achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’ and a challenge to call out inequality. Thanks to their leadership, different skills and experiences, women have already played an important role and will continue to do so in ‘building back better.’ World Heritage cities have been impacted enormously by the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous extraordinary and strong women are important leaders of World Heritage Cities and have shown amazing empathy, resourcefulness, and vision in managing World Heritage sites and cities during this challenging time. We have examples such as the mayor of Tunis (Tunisia), Ms Abderrahim, including the World Heritage site of the Medina of Tunis, and the mayor of Assisi (Italy), Ms Stefania Proietti, a World Heritage site as well. 24% of World Heritage site managers are women including the site manager of Byblos (Lebanon) Ms Tania Zaven, the site manager of Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (UK) Ms Christina Sinclair, the site manager of Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia) Ms Ming Chee Ang, and the site manager of Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso (Chile) Ms María José Larrondo Pulgar. Of course, the most significant leaders are community members themselves who help to calm people, respond to urgencies, and find innovative solutions.

     Thanks are due to the women leaders of historic cities, the mayors and the site managers of World Heritage sites. We celebrate their courage, their hard work and their leadership. As we look to ‘build back better,’ in historic cities and communities everywhere, women must be recognised and respected as equal partners and must be part of the solution to make cities liveable, safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable, promoting wellbeing and cultural diversity. Improving the representation of women across decision-makers in cities is also essential in leading to better public spaces, improved safety and community wellbeing.

     This month is also the commemoration of the deliberate destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan 20 years ago in 2001. The missing Buddhas are an important reminder that respect for cultural diversity is essential for peaceful societies. They also remind us that safeguarding World Heritage properties is crucial not only for those who live in and around them but also for the entire global community, as evident in the momentary violence of the destruction that has been countered by two decades of strong international cooperation.


Jyoti Hosagrahar
Deputy Director, World Heritage Centre

From UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Afghanistan)
© Shutterstock / Torsten Pursche

Commemorating 20 years since the destruction of two Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

In the words of the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture:

The tragic destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001, which was broadcast across the globe, led to a global recognition of the need to protect cultural heritage at risk.
The empty niches of the giant Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan are a perpetual reminder of our duty to protect cultural heritage, and what future generations stand to lose if we do not. Today, these niches are inscribed on the World Heritage List as part of the “Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley” World Heritage property.
[Their destruction] reminded us that defending cultural diversity is not a luxury, but rather fundamental to building more peaceful societies.

Read more

UNESCO and Germany support tourism recovery from COVID-19

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has provided UNESCO with 2 million euros to address some of the immediate socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on tourism and heritage. The project aims to support UNESCO’s efforts to accelerate the recovery, to protect livelihoods and to transform the sector to become more inclusive and sustainable.

Read more


Swiss funds help protect cultural archives in post-earthquake Albania

Following an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale that hit Albania in November 2020, Switzerland is providing funding for a UNESCO project on the digitisation of the archive of the National Institute for Cultural Heritage.

Read more

Image Credit: Beirut Urban Declaration

Beirut Urban Declaration

The Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut organised a live digital forum from 12 to 14 March to address the crucial issues following the 4 August 2020 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.
With the support of the French government, UNESCO-LiBeirut and the UIA, through a series of debates, the forum gathered together experts to discuss transport and urban mobility, housing, Beirut’s harbour and the preservation of heritage with the aim of creating a master plan for the districts devastated by blast. UNESCO Assistant Director for Culture Mr Ernesto Ottone Ramirez participated in the closing session on 14 March.

View the Declaration.

Watch the recordings of the debates

Image credit: Tania Zaven, site manager of Byblos (Lebanon)

We celebrated the 8th of March!

#InternationalWomensDay #IWD2021

Each year, International Women's Day is the occasion to celebrate the role of women and encourage gender equality in everything that we do.
Women play a crucial role in managing World Heritage sites. 24% of World Heritage site managers are women, including Tania Zaven, site manager of Byblos, Christina Sinclair, site manager of Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, and Beverly Wade, national focal point for the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, all doing little-known and fantastic work at preserving sites in often difficult circumstances.

Learn more about the growing contribution of women in World Heritage conservation in the face of the numerous global challenges today, from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic.

See a message from Dr Jyoti Hosagrahar, Deputy Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre


Mosul: Results of a public survey on the reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Prayer Hall and Al-Hadba Minaret

UNESCO and the Statistics Consultancy Bureau (SCB) of the University of Mosul conducted an analytical survey of the people of Mosul on the reconstruction of the Al Hadba Minaret and the Al Nouri Prayer Hall, destroyed during conflict in 2017. This activity was implemented under a project funded by the Government of the United Arab Emirates and is part of the UNESCO initiative to "Revive the Spirit of Mosul".
The survey, conducted during the months of November and December 2020, targeted more than 700 individuals from Mosul of all ages, backgrounds and gender. The Statistics Consultancy Bureau (SCB)'s team, composed of 22 young enumerators and 3 university professors, under the supervision of Dr Bashar Abdul Aziz al-Talib (head of the SCB), visited families residing in both East and West Mosul as well as displaced Moslawis in order to complete the surveys. 

Read more


Global Forum against Racism and Discrimination

The recent manifestations of the upsurge in racial discrimination, including racial violence, as seen in global protest movements, require a renewed commitment from the international community to build a strong front to thwart racism.
As a response to this situation and in line with the Global Call against Racism adopted at the 210th session of the UNESCO Executive Board, UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences Programme organised a multi-stakeholder Global Forum against Racism and Discrimination on 22 March 2021. The Forum was be held in the context of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) and welcomed Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr from Freetown and Mayor Carolina Cosse from Montevideo, with a special video message from Mayor Ada Colau of Barcelona.

Learn more about the event
Learn more about the Global call against racism


UNESCO Produces Urban Rehabilitation Guidelines for Yemeni World Heritage Sites

As part of its EU-funded project “Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihoods Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen”, UNESCO produced urban rehabilitation guidelines for local architects, master builders and cultural heritage local stakeholders. The guidelines are fully contextualised for each city covered by the Project including the World Heritage Sites of Sana’a, Shibam and Zabid, as well as the historic city of Aden. They aim at helping local stakeholders conducting necessary planning, surveying, maintenance, rehabilitation and monitoring, in compliance with recognised conservation standards and principles.

The workshop will be held over three days from 17 to 19 February 2021 via Zoom, from 11:00 to 16:30 CET. 

Learn more

Upcoming Events

Canopy World Heritage Solutions for Sustainable Cities

UNESCO is launching shortly the Canopy platform, which gathers examples of good practices positioning heritage at the core of sustainable urban development.
Canopy provides a thematic and regional resource for better solutions:

  • The role and contribution of heritage to sustainable development in and around the World Heritage properties towards benefitting local communities;
  • Operational solutions for sustainable development in and around World Heritage properties that also serve to protect their Outstanding Universal Values; 
  • Examples of heritage management practices that contribute to sustainable development and sustainable development solutions that engage with heritage;

Explore the collection!
Submit a good practice at

Call for Cases!
World Heritage Cities Forum

The World Heritage Cities Forum 2021, which will take place online this summer (dates will be announced shortly), is calling for case studies on innovate heritage management practices contributing to sustainable development!
The case studies will be presented during the sessions and will serve to encourage debate between participants.

We look forward to your contributions!
See the call

City Focus

City Focus is a corner for the World Heritage Cities and other historic cities to share their challenges and initiatives.   
Share yours!

Baptistry of St John;
Author: Bruno Doucin;
© Bruno Doucin  

Florence: Mobile analytics

The project consists of the acquisition of data deriving from the telephone traffic of two of the main telephone operators in Italy, in order to integrate the information already available on tourism and on the utilisation of the city by the city users.
The Municipality of Florence contacted Vodafone and Telecom to purchase the telephone traffic. At the end of 2016, the data was delivered by the operators to the Municipality of Florence. The Statistics Office of the Municipality of Florence verified the quality of the data and processed it to elaborate the output. In November 2017, the data were officially presented. 
The goal of the project is to understand the origins of the flow of people in Florence and to quantify the actual number of residents, commuters, tourists and excursionists. The project arises from the need of the Municipality of Florence to monitor dynamics unknown by official statistics. The project aims to develop a greater knowledge of the “dynamic” movement phenomena that affect the territory in order to make a more effective management of city mobility, tourist flows, and the intervention of civil protection.
The project allowed the Municipality to gather data not included in the official statistics, which was an innovative way to study urban dynamics in Florence.

Learn more about Florence`s World Heritage site “Historic Centre of Florence” 

(The Historic Centre of Florence is part of the World Heritage Cities Programme) 

(Source: Thematic Study on common challenges. HeRe Lab – Heritage Research Lab, University of Florence and UNESCO Office of the Municipality of Florence. Atlas World Heritage - Heritage in the Atlantic Area, June 2019) 

City of Cuzco (Peru);
Author: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent;
© Ko Hon Chiu Vincent     

Cuzco: Bolstering community identity through cultural programmes

Cuzco’s rich cultural heritage rooted in the Inca Empire and the Viceroyalty period of Peru is embodied in sites across the city. The city’s attributes that reflect 3,000 years of indigenous and autonomous cultural development in the Peruvian southern Andes anchored the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List in 1983. The ancient Coricancha Inca temple now converted into the Santo Domingo Convent and the neighbourhood of San Blas, where colonial houses were built on the foundations of Inca sites and superimposed with existing constructions, have been strengthened and promoted through cultural activities led by the Municipal Government and the Ministry of Culture of Peru.

While the area surrounding the Plaza de Armas is the favoured location to celebrate Cuzco’s festivities, the San Blas neighbourhood is widely known as the arts and crafts centre of Cuzco. Constituting the historic centre of Cuzco, these two areas are often at the centre of cultural development initiatives. For instance, a Heritage Project for Development was jointly established by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) and the City Council to halt the deterioration of monuments, and a school workshop was set up focusing on conservation, restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage for social development through traditional crafts. The Earth Project was developed to strengthen traditional knowledge for sustainable development, an initiative supported by other city-run projects seeking to safeguard ancestral Andean technologies and ensure the continuity of Cuzco’s living culture.

Learn more about the World Heritage site “City of Cuzco"

(The City of Cuzco is part of the World Heritage Cities Programme)

(Source: Culture Urban Future, UNESCO, 2016, p. 198. Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, report for Study Area 8) 

View of Hawa Mahal and Sireh Deodhi Bazaar;
Author: DRONAH;

View of Gate to City Palace complex; Author: DRONAH; © DRONAH 

Elaboration of a Special Area Heritage Plan (SAHP) for the Walled City of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

The UNESCO Cluster Office New Delhi is accompanying the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) in their elaboration of a Special Area Heritage Plan (SAHP), requested by the World Heritage Committee at the moment of the inscription (2019) in order to preserve the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Jaipur, for which the heritage city was recognised as a World Heritage site.
The architectural ensemble of Jaipur city, including its historic chaupars (public squares) and havelis (historic townhouses), a unique urban morphology and living traditions reflect a harmonious integration of cultures and time periods as recognised in its OUV, meriting urgent conservation efforts. Contemporary challenges of urbanisation, encroachment, neglect and misguided conservation efforts of heritage sites have had drastic impacts on the historical fabric of cities.
In this first–ever attempt, the city of Jaipur is endeavouring to develop mechanisms and detailed technical guidelines for the World Heritage City. To this end, a detailed inventory of every building and its various elements including the socio-economic relations with the local population will be prepared to understand distinctive features of each street/area. The unique setting of the densely populated city of over three million people is interspersed with over 100,000 historical structures of value, making this novel project in India, one of the largest.
Jaipur City has proactively established the Jaipur Heritage Cell and Technical Heritage Committee, 
This landmark project entails technical workshops that will review data, maps and inventory compiled by the Jaipur Heritage Cell in close collaboration with experts. 

Learn more about the World Heritage site “Jaipur City, Rajasthan" 

(Jaipur City, Rajasthan, is part of the World Heritage Cities Programme)

 (Source: Culture Sector, UNESCO New Delhi Office for Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka)

Reflections of an Expert

Souayibou Varissou

Urban heritage issues and challenges in Africa

     World heritage in urban and suburban environments in Africa is characterised by a remarkable diversity composed of landscapes, monuments and architectural units that give it an indisputable originality. The cities inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List reflect different personalities. Some, such as Asmara (Eritrea) and Saint Louis (Senegal), proudly display their colonial attributes, while others, such as the Sukur Cultural Landscape (Nigeria) and Djenné (Mali), bear the mark of ancestral know-how. In fact, a significant number of towns are built with plural spirits made up of intertwined endogenous and exogenous elements, for example the Historic Town of Grand-Bassam (comprising the colonial town and a section of the N’zima fishing village), Mbanza Kongo, Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo (Angola), and Rabat, whose complexity weaves together architectural structures and urban elements from the 12th to the 20th centuries. For this reason this site bears the emblematic name of Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage. A remarkable symbol that is reflected in the programme.

     However, the diversity of urban world heritage conceals inconsistencies when submitted, for example, to the filter of global strategy for a balanced, representative and credible world heritage list. Although the objective of the Global Strategy launched by the World Heritage Committee in 1994 was to ensure that the List faithfully reflects the cultural and natural diversity of sites of outstanding universal value, a project of this kind raises questions of effectiveness with regard to African heritage in general, and urban heritage in particular. It is common knowledge that, in spite of considerable efforts on the part of different institutions and experts, the quantitative imbalance of World Heritage in different regions remains one of its shortcomings in terms of a fair and equitable World Heritage List. Unfortunately, this persistent imbalance on the global scale is also reflected on the African continent.

     Indeed, the clichés inherited from colonial periods and the conditions sometimes attached to funding opportunities, have led to national inventory and world heritage nomination initiatives being pushed into “political correctness”, working in favour of the grandiloquence of imported models with regard to both landscape and architecture. As a result, the imprint of African World Heritage on the List is heavily marked with an exogenous stamp. The consequences of this kind of representation of the Dark Continent go beyond its meagre presence (12%) on a simple list, they concern the essential questions of self-confidence and of finding the bearings of one’s identity through world heritage. Can marketing of the continent that was humanity’s cradle be sustainable when its concrete expression is manifested in constructions inherited from the colonial past? Under what conditions can the extraordinary cultural richness and diversity of a continent that has been misused throughout the ages (above all from the 16th century) legitimately constitute a prestigious vehicle for its presentation to the world through the world heritage label?

     Whatever the strategic choices, it is essential for Africa to continue to promote dialogue with other cultures, while consolidating its own bearings through heritage. This is not activism, it is a question of cultural survival that needs to find expression in world heritage as a pioneering label in order to build the future for all of us together.

Souayibou Varissou 

Executive Director of the African World Heritage Fund

March 2021 

Our Partners

European Cultural Heritage Green Paper

As a reaction to the need to integrate cultural heritage in the European Green Deal, which states that “All EU actions and policies will have to contribute to the European Green Deal objectives”, the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper promotes the integration of cultural heritage and its relevant role in achieving these ambitious goals of the Deal. The paper stands for the capacity of cultural heritage to support all key areas of the European Green Deal, including Clean Energy, Circular Economy, Renovation Wave, Smart Mobility, Farm to Fork, Green Finance and a Just Transition, Research and Innovation, Education and Training, as well as Green Deal Diplomacy.
The European Cultural Heritage Green Paper is produced by Europa Nostra in close cooperation with ICOMOS and the Climate Heritage Network, with the input of other members of the European HeritageAlliance. It is supported by the European Investment Bank Institute and the Creative Europe programme ofthe European Union.

See the paper

Watch the recording of the launch event

See the PPT Presentation of the Green Paper, delivered by Andrew Potts

World Monuments Fund virtual tours

The World Monuments Fund has launched Heritage from Home, a virtual tour series featuring some of World Monuments Fund’s (WMF) most iconic sites around the globe, guided by the world-class specialists that safeguard them for the future.

The series includes:

  • Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia Video release date: Friday, February 26 
  • Erbil Citadel, Iraq Video release date: Thursday, May 27 
  • Mughal Gardens of Agra, India Video release date: Thursday, March 25

Learn more

Workshop “Conservation of Historic Urban Landscape: From George Town (Malaysia) to Yazd”

On 1 and 8 March the Cultural Landscape Department of the Iranian Scientific Association for Landscape, in cooperation with the School of Architecture of the University of Tehran, Yazd World Heritage Base, Yazd Vernacular Architecture Research Centre of the University of Yazd, and George Town World Heritage Incorporated, organised the first workshop of the series of "Landscape Conservation" workshops entitled "Conservation of Historic Urban Landscape: From George Town (Malaysia) to Yazd".
The workshop was organised to celebrate and mark 2021 as the year of urban heritage and to reinforce the messages of the UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscape (HUL Recommendation).

Learn more here and here 

Download the workshop video

Publications of interest

Issue 6 Culture and Public Policy Tracker

This issue looks at how cultural tourism has grown to be a powerhouse for sustainable development, and what countries are doing to harness their cultural assets through tourism. We examine some of the major challenges, risks and opportunities for cultural tourism development, and what steps governments are taking to transition to more sustainable models of tourism development – today and in the post-COVID-19 context.

The Tracker builds on the ministerial dialogues launched in the framework of the Forum of Ministers of Culture, as well as the Culture & Covid-19: Impact and Response Tracker whose aim was to serve as a reactive monitoring tool to capture trends and measures at cultural policy level in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. 

Click here to download the PDF version
Click here to access the previous Issues of the Tracker

The Twentieth-Century Historic Thematic Framework- A Tool for Assessing Heritage Places

Susan Marsden and Peter Spearritt, 2021

Published by the Getty Conservation Institute, the book abstract states that the publication “promotes broad thinking about the historical processes that have contributed to the twentieth-century built environment worldwide.
It identifies and analyzes the principal social, technological, political, and economic drivers that have shaped the buildings, cities, industries, and landscapes of the twentieth century, emphasizing global forces, trends, and phenomena that have shaped the built environment.”

The publication provides a structure to help users identify and assess 20th century heritage. This aims to help determine what is significant and why, which is often the first step needed for the conservation of such places.
The publication is available online and can be used to survey and assess places and to conduct comparative analyses. These tools aim at being adaptable to anyone involved in heritage conservation in the context of the 20th century around the world. 

With contributions from Leo Schmidt, Sheridan Burke, Gail Ostergren, Jeff Cody, and Chandler McCoy. 

Download the publication


2021 Call for nominations UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes

The call and online submission of the UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize will be open for nominations until 30 April 2021 (midnight Paris time,). The UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes was established in 1995 to reward outstanding examples of actions to safeguard and enhance the world's cultural landscapes, a category of World Heritage. The winner of the prize will receive the sum of US $30,000. 

Learn more

Contact the Secretariat of the Prize, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre at 

Image credit: OWHC

Notice of candidacy: position of Secretary General of the OWHC.

The Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) is looking for a Secretary General. The main objectives of the position will be to develop and maintain strong bonds among World Heritage Cities and partner organisations, increase the OWHC’s membership, develop a fundraising strategy and represent the interests of the organization around the globe.

Deadline: 16 April 2021.

Learn more

5th edition of the European Award for Architectural Heritage Intervention-update 

The inscription deadline for the 5th edition of the European Award for Architectural Heritage Intervention is extended to 26 March, 2021, 24.00 (UTC+1)

Learn more

2022 Watch Nomination Deadline Extended

The 2022 World Monuments Watch nomination deadline has been extended to 1 May 2021, to give space for the various challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more additional information on the submission process can be found here.

UIA Gold Medal-
Last Call for Nominations:
2 April 2021

On the occasion of its triennial World Congress, the UIA attributes the UIA Gold Medal and five prizes.
The deadline for Council and Bureau members as well as Member Sections submitting candidatures to the 2021 UIA Triennial Gold Medal & Prizes will be 2 April. Candidatures must be submitted through the UIA Prize Platform

See the regulations here

Learn more about the award

Note: The practices shared in Urban Notebooks are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and Site Managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included in Urban Notebooks as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on urban heritage with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.

The cases shared in Urban Notebooks address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Practices and examples showcased in the newsletter do not entail any recognition of inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List or any of its thematic programmes. 

Guidelines for Contributions

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

Please share with us 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.

Keep us updated!

Send us your news
photos, videos, projects, activities, publications

Share on Social Media
#Heritage4Cities #WorldHeritageCities #ShareOurHeritage #ShareCulture

Send us your current contact details and stay updated on our latest initiatives

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

The Team of the World Heritage Cities Programme
Get connected:
Contact us:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the City of Nanjing

We gratefully acknowledge the Subdirección General de Gestión y Coordinación de los Bienes culturales (formerly Subdirección General de Protección del Patrimonio Histórico) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of the Government of Spain for the translation of this bulletin into Spanish 

Published in 2021 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France under CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO license  

© UNESCO 2021