World Heritage Cities Programme April 2021

World Heritage Cities Programme

Urban Notebooks

Newsletter April 2021

Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa.
Martin Gray © Sacred sites      


Dear Readers,

     The International Day of Monuments and Sites is also known as World Heritage Day. It is promoted by ICOMOS and the theme for 2021 is ‘Complex pasts: Diverse futures.’ World Heritage Day is celebrated each year all over the world to raise awareness of heritage and its role, both globally and locally with events, activities, newspaper articles, and campaigns to protect heritage sites. This year’s theme is a global call for greater inclusion and greater recognition of diversity: a diversity including that of sites, forms, meanings, communities, and interpretations. Though the pandemic seems to be more under control in some parts of the world, it continues to rage and devastate in many others. Heritage sites that have come down to us through the centuries have been witness to previous epidemics and devastation and as such are rich repositories of knowledge.

     With the cherry blossom trees in full bloom, spring has arrived here. As the 10th Anniversary of the HUL Recommendation unfolds, as well as the 20th Anniversary of the World Heritage Cities Programme, we are preparing for a number of different activities in the coming weeks and months that we hope you will join us for. The launch of the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory, a collaboration with the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) to understand and document the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage cities with earth observation tools; a World Heritage City Lab in collaboration with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) on urban regeneration and adaptive use in May. And in June a global forum for World Heritage cities.

     We are delighted to launch the World Heritage Canopy: Heritage Solutions for Sustainable Futures. This is a living platform of innovative strategies and practices that integrates heritage conservation with sustainable development. Through case studies and practical examples, the platform aims to inspire and guide local actions that contribute to and align with major global frameworks including the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Jyoti Hosagrahar
Deputy Director, World Heritage Centre

From UNESCO World Heritage Centre

District San Fang Qi Xiang
(三坊七巷), China

Extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee

His Excellency Mr Tian Xuejun, Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, will chair the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee from Fuzhou (China). The session will take place as an online meeting between 16 and 31 July 2021. Technical information will be available soon.

Learn more

Brasilia (Brazil)
© Shutterstock / Waldemar Manfred Seehagen

International Day for Monuments and Sites 2021 - Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures

In 1982, UNESCO’s General Conference established 18 April as the International Day for Monuments and Sites, in many countries also celebrated as World Heritage Day. The day is promoted by ICOMOS globally, and the theme for 2021 is “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures”. Acknowledging global calls for greater inclusion and recognition of diversity, this Day invites all of us to reflect on, interpret and review existing narratives. One way to participate is by visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites virtually through the online exhibits on Google Arts & Culture.

Learn more


211th session of the Executive Board

The 221th session of the Executive Board took place between 7 and 21 April 2021. Taking place online for the second time in history, the Executive Board assesses and programs the work of the Organisation, reporting on programme implementation, financial management, and action plan for future activities of UNESCO. Elected by the General Conference, the Executive Board secures the overall management of UNESCO, prepares its work and examines outcomes and results.

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Historic City of Yazd (Iran). Aerial View, Qaleh kohneh District Author: HCY base archive © ICHHTO

World Heritage Canopy: Heritage Solutions for Sustainable Futures

The World Heritage Canopy is a platform of innovative practices and case studies demonstrating the variety of ways that heritage contributes to sustainable development and that heritage conservation can be integrated with sustainable development in and around heritage sites, in particular World Heritage properties.

Browse Canopy

G20 webinar cycle on the protection of cultural heritage kicks off

On 12 April 2021, the Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre chaired one of the events of the G20 Culture Webinars “Addressing the climate crisis through culture”, session II on “Strategies and Actions for Increased resilience of Cultural Heritage”. The recording is accessible through the YouTube channel of the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Learn more
Access the recording


Launch of the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory

A collaboration between UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Group on Earth Observation with the Greek GEO Office, the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory (UHCO) was launched on 26 April with an open online event. The initiative aims to apply earth observation tools to understand and document the impact of Climate Change on World Heritage cities bringing together experts and stakeholders from the relevant fields of climate change, Earth observation and urban heritage.

Learn more

Timbuktu’s mausoleums

Mali and UNESCO receive symbolic reparation on behalf of international community for destruction of Timbuktu’s mausoleums

As a consequence of the 2012 occupation by armed groups in northern Mali, various mausoleums and the sacred gate of the Sidi Yahia Mosque were damaged and destroyed. The International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced the responsibility of Ahmad Al Faqi Mahdi and conferred Mali and UNESCO with symbolic reparation for the destruction of the site inscribed since 1988 on the World Heritage List. This resolution constitutes a crucial advancement in the international mobilisation for the legal protection of the site and the support towards local authorities and communities.

Learn more

The Queen Victoria passing St. Mark’s Square in Venice Andrea Merola
© EPA [via Shutterstock]

Venice bans cruise ships from its Lagoon

UNESCO welcomes the Italian government's decision to ban large cruise ships from the Venice Lagoon. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee urged Italy in 2014 to ban large ships and oil tankers from entering the Venice Lagoon. Sometimes weighing up to 40,000 tonnes, they undermine the Venice lagoon and its ecological balance.

Learn more

See Decision 43 COM 7B.86


Launch of the “Supporting capacity-building of World Heritage sites in East Africa” project

On 26 March 2021, the Ambassadors of the Sultanate of Oman, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, United Republic of Tanzania and representative from Somalia joined the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to launch the three-year project, “Supporting capacity-building of World Heritage sites in East Africa” financed by the Sultanate of Oman.

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Upcoming Events

Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro
© Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Bringing together all World Heritage Cities

A forum bringing together all World Heritage Cities is planned between 16 and 25 June 2021. This is in the framework of the tenth anniversary of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape. It will bring together a range of World Heritage City mayors and site managers to present, discuss and exchange about common current challenges, actions and future strategies.

The World Heritage Centre is calling for case studies on urban heritage management practices. Selected case studies will be presented at the conference. Topics such as transportation and infrastructure, public space, renovations, tourism, traditional livelihoods and circular/green economies will revolve around the idea of recovery and “building back better” with heritage cities as thriving, sustainable and resilient urban centres strongly connected to their communities.

Submit a case study

Medina of Sousse (Tunisia) Author: Jean-Jacques Gelbart
© Editions Gelbart

Living with World Heritage: Adaptive Reuse and Regeneration in the Euro-Mediterranean region 

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, the World Heritage Centre and the Union for the Mediterranean are collaborating to organise an online World Heritage City Lab online on the topic “Living with World Heritage: Adaptive Reuse and Regeneration in the Euro-Mediterranean region”. The online conference will take place on 17-18 May 2020. The sessions will focus on practical examples that could support the better integration of urban heritage management in urban development processes.

Register now

Learn more

City Focus

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





Yemen: Promoting local employment through heritage conservation in historic cities

Since 2014, the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen has posed significant threats to the country’s unique cultural heritage. At the same time, the unrest has caused an economic decline, high unemployment, and a rise in poverty among Yemeni households. This situation was further affected by extreme weather conditions affecting several World Heritage Sites, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and severe risks for operations.

In this challenging context, the project “Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen” aims at employing 4,000 young men and women to safeguard cultural heritage in four different historic urban centres: Sana’a, Shibam, Zabid and Aden. The project is implemented by UNESCO and the Social Fund for Development and funded by the European Union, with an overall budget of €10 million.
As of March 2021, the project has employed over 1,300 young men and women, surveyed over 8,000 historical buildings, stabilised and/or rehabilitated 130 historical buildings, organised 4 capacity building and consultative workshops and disbursed small grants to 8 cultural CSOs to boost income generation in the creative sector, amongst others. 

The sites of Old Walled City of Shibam, Old City of Sana'a and Historic Town of Zabid are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city of Aden is not inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Source: UNESCO Cluster Office for Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

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Reflections of an Expert

Cristina Lodi

Watch the video
Time to retreat: time for reflection on what kind of society we want to live in

     We live in a time of seclusion during this global health crisis, but also of opportunities for reflection. An abundance of interpersonal interactions and knowledge is being generated, transmitted, and shared through virtual meetings, seminars, livestreams, workshops, and so on, which have been particularly prolific in Latin America. It is important to take advantage of this moment of withdrawal from society so that based on reflections and empathy, there is greater recognition of the rights of others and respect for differences. We must reflect on the pressures to carry on with economic activities despite the challenges that the local communities face. How can World Heritage site managers bring these reflections to professional practice?

     The relationship between cultural, natural and intangible heritage in Brazil is visible in several World Heritage sites. From them, we can reflect on the challenges of sustainable development, which requires the use of community participation and the conservation of local culture, as well as an inclusive approach to difference, for the preservation of common well-being and the balance between humans and nature. This is evident in the case of Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity, inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2019 as a mixed site. The site demonstrates the Brazilian cultural and natural diversity, where traditional communities live in large natural reserves, with the constant challenge to maintain environmental balance.

     In the case of the city of Rio de Janeiro, two World Heritages sites reflect social and environmental challenges of sustainable development: Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea and the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site. Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea is a cultural landscape which includes public natural areas transformed by people for their own benefit. Despite the pressures of urbanisation, the impacts of urban development on the site's buffer zone, and the reduction of the local communities’ participation in site management , the cultural landscape brings many benefits to the city, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, sections of the site are used as escape spaces where the local communities can enjoy an outdoor life while adopting appropriate sanitary measures.

     The inscription of the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site on the World Heritage list in 2017 brought new reflections and challenges, especially concerning the conservation and interpretation of a site that bears witness to the transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans. The Valongo Wharf is located in the port area of Rio de Janeiro, and encompasses the entirety of Jornal do Comércio Square. The site’s buffer zone extends over 42 ha in central Rio. As one of the largest ports of entry for enslaved Africans in the Americas, the Valongo Wharf reflects the intolerance and violation of human rights of a period in world history that cannot be forgotten, and which is closely linked to the history of Rio de Janeiro. The site also celebrates the contribution of African heritage to Brazilian culture. During this health crisis, we have carried out initiatives to involve communities in continuing education projects and promote the exchange of ideas, such as the project Wharf of Ideas, the ICOMOS-Latin America workshop on Human Rights and Heritage, and the Black Territories Project, developed by the Museum of the History of Afro-Brazilian Culture and partners.

     Almost two centuries after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, we still see practices in our society that hark back to the times of slavery. World Heritage sites such as the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site are important reminders that lead us to reflect on the kind of society in which we want to live and what social inclusion and sustainability really mean in terms of the local communities. 


Cristina Lodi,
Director of the International Cooperation Project:
Shared Management of Valongo Wharf and Design of Territory Museum
- UNESCO/Rio’s Office of Culture
April 2021

Our Partners

Towards a Future Tourism Strategy: Economic Recovery Tool for a Sustainable World Beyond the Pandemic

On 13 April, a meeting organised by both the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities (UCCI) and UCLG aimed to gather experts and actors of the sector to discuss strategies, collaborations and priorities on the vision of Tourism of the Future. This opportunity contributed with new inputs towards a new strategy for both the Ibero-American Strategy for Future Tourism (EIT) and the Pact for the Future, keeping as main priorities an equitable access to public service, the renewal of the multilateral systems and a new approach to sustainable tourism.
Among other cities experts and professionals, Jyoti Hosagrahar, Deputy Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, took part in the High-Level Dialogue speaking on World Heritage cities and sustainable urban development in the context of post-pandemic recovery, with particular attention to the UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape. The main objective of the meeting concerned the implementation of sustainable practices to ensure that recovery is done with the good of the planet in mind.

Learn more

ICCROM kickstarts heritage recovery programme in Mosul, Iraq

In cooperation with UNESCO and under the project “Revival of the Spirit of Mosul”, ICCROM is developing a comprehensive programme to build the capacity of young Moslawi architects, engineers and craftsmen. The programme will contribute to the recovery of the cultural heritage of Mosul, one of the oldest cities in the world. The programme counts with the financial support of the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.

Learn more

© UNESCO (screenshot taken during the event)

“Integrating Urban Heritage in Urban Planning Processes” World Heritage City Lab – City of Prague

On 24 March 2020, the City of Prague hosted an International Workshop on “Integrating Urban Heritage in Urban Planning Processes”, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre. Prague is home to the World Heritage property of the Historic Centre of Prague. 

The event was opened with a speech by Deputy Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre on the importance of urban heritage as a fundamental tool for social cohesion, cultural and economic development in the framework of the HUL Recommendation. Following her address, experts and site managers from different European cities discussed case studies concerning the implementation of more inclusive, sustainable and resilient plans for their urban communities.

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Publications of interest

Timbuktu (Mali)
© Overnsap / Getty Images Signature

The Tracker Culture & Public Policy

UNESCO (31 March 2021) Issue 7

This monthly Tracker is produced by UNESCO to monitor culture in public policy with regards to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. It highlights developments within national and regional contexts, as well as emerging debates on culture's contribution to sustainable development. Drawing on a variety of sources, it provides a broad overview of cultural policy trends worldwide at the national, regional and international level and looks at ways in which countries integrate culture into other policy areas.

Read More

Ageleh Jmeidi and Wajd Nawafleh, two local USAID SCHEP participants at the Temple of the Winged Lions, Petra. Saleem Fakhoury;
© American Center of Research [ACOR] 2018 [From the ICOMOS Website] 

Sustainable Development Goals Policy Guidance for Heritage and Development Actors

ICOMOS Sustainable Development Goals Working Group – Priority Action 1 Task Team (17 March 2021)

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) released on March 17 the new policy document produced by the Sustainable Development Goals Working Group (Priority Action 1 Task Team). This Policy Guidance aims to address sustainable development and its potential in enhancing heritage sites in all five global regions. This action wants to raise awareness on the potential contribution of heritage towards sustainable development, while supporting ICOMOS members and heritage professionals towards developing a sustainable development perspective in line with the SDGs.

Download the full report

Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Author: Doug John Miller

After Covid, the city’s rebirth

Helen Fitzwilliam (2 April 2021), Chatham House

Addressing the experience of different cities across the world during the Covid pandemic, journalist and director Helen Fitzwilliam points out the ways in which many urban stakeholders and decision makers are investing in a more sustainable future. From the implementation of rainwater harvesting tanks in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Freetown (Sierra Leone) to the institution of entire car-free areas in the city of Barcelona (Spain), local authorities committed themselves to prioritise local communities ensuring a healthier environment and more accessible essential goods. The publication includes case studies from Spain, Sierra Leone, France and China.

Learn more

COVID-19 Safety Messaging in the East Bay Regional Park District, California, USA.
© East Bay Regional Park District 

Urban Parks and Protected Areas: On the Front Lines of a Pandemic

Greg Moore and John Hopkins (March 2021), Parks Vol 27 (Special Issue)

Public and green spaces in urban areas play a fundamental role in the well-being of local communities. The study conducted by Moore and Hopkins collected the experiences of 11 cities across the world, highlighting the issues faced when reopening urban parks after lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The publication aims to raise awareness amongst institutional stakeholders and civil society on the crucial role of outdoor activities and nature in everyday urban life.

Read the article

How will we live together? Exhibition Poster for the Italian Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale
© 2021 Comunità Resilienti.

Resilient communities as an antidote to the environmental crisis

Giulia Ricci (19 March 2021), domusweb

On the online edition of the architecture magazine domus, Giulia Ricci interviews Alessandro Melis, architect and academic, curator of the Italian Pavilion for the next Venice Architecture Biennale. Opening on 22 May, the Pavilion aims to guide its visitors towards new approaches on inhabiting the planet in the post-pandemic era. “Resilient Communities” is a project that starts with a strong statement: reusing Milovan Farronato’s 2019 installation as a claim of sustainability. Looking at population centres as relational units trying to cast aside the traditional dichotomy between centre and periphery, the Italian architect looks at local, shared and sustainable solutions as the first opportunity to rethink the global.

Read the interview

Video presentation



Call for case studies: a World Heritage Cities conference

The World Heritage Cities Programme is calling for case studies of Innovative Actions implementing the approach of the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, integrating heritage conservation with sustainable urban development, in World Heritage cities. The selected case studies will be presented during the conference on World Heritage Cities which will take place online 16-25 June 2021. They will serve to prompt a discussion with the other participants. Subsequently, these case studies will be disseminated through the different channels of the World Heritage Cities Programme.

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Call for nominations: 2021 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

Call for abstracts: 57th World Planning Congress

The 57th ISOCARP World Planning Congress will take place in Doha between 8-11 November 2021. ISOCARP is now accepting abstract submissions to presenting in one of the sessions, workshops and panel discussions. Submissions are open to all and include research papers, case study reports, and session/forum proposal.

Deadline: 16 May 2021 

Learn more

Konso Cultural Landscape
© Yonas Beyene

Call for participation: IFLA Africa climate change working group

The International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Climate Change Working Group is calling upon member associations and individuals to volunteer as a committee member of the IFLA Africa Climate Change Working Group. Nominations are especially encouraged from candidates from Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria and Tunisia. The Working Group aims to develop a regional climate action agenda and approach and convene and develop a climate action and collaboration network, among others.

Interested participants can express interest by sending an email to or WhatsApp message to +254720574235.

Call for nominations: ISOCARP Awards 2021 Call

The ISOCARP Awards for Excellence, established in 2005, rewards the most prominent achievements in the broad field of spatial planning. The award is open to a wide range of professionals and institutions operating in the domain of urban and regional planning, including private studios; cities; university departments and research institutes; NGOs, and freelancers. 

Deadline: 30 June 2021.

Learn more

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.

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

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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