World Heritage Cities Programme
The World Heritage Cities Programme aims to assist States Parties in the challenges of protecting and managing their urban heritage.
The World Heritage Cities Programme is one of six thematic programmes formally approved and monitored by the World Heritage Committee. The programme is structured along a two-way process, with 1 the development of a theoretical framework for urban heritage conservation, and 2 the provision of technical assistance to States Parties for the implementation of new approaches and schemes.
Concerned by the multitude of World Heritage Cities facing difficulties in reconciling conservation and development, the World Heritage Committee at its 29th session in Durban, South Africa (July 2005) requested the development of a new standard-setting instrument to provide updated guidelines to better integrate urban heritage conservation into strategies of socio-economic development. The World Heritage Committee relegated this task to UNESCO in view of the fact that such challenges were faced by all historic cities, not only those inscribed onto the World Heritage List, to muster the broadest possible support from the international community, and to underline the role of UNESCO as standard-setting organization.
Join one of our upcoming events, re-watch previous webinars and read through our event reports.
UNESCO Urban Heritage Atlas
Applying the approach of the Historic Urban Landscape in World Heritage Cities
World Heritage Canopy
A living platform of case studies that integrate heritage conservation with sustainable development.
The World Heritage Cities Programme has developed a number of initiatives to promote peer-to-peer learning and cooperation amongst site managers and key stakeholders in World Heritage Cities.
The approach of the HUL Recommendation helps cities balance urban heritage conservation and urban development by understanding urban heritage as a system and a resource for sustainable urban development. This pilot project shows the interconnections between World Heritage and the HUL Recommendation in World Heritage Cities and maps their heritage attributes.
Discover the living platform of case studies and practical examples that integrate heritage conservation with sustainable development. Learn more about how local actions can contribute to major global commitments including the World Heritage Convention, the HUL Recommendation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
World Heritage City Dialogues
Since the first edition of the World Heritage City Dialogues in 2019, the series has become an online platform for peer-to-peer learning and capacity building, bringing together site managers and local authorities. In 2021, the events focused on the HUL Recommendation as a channel for Climate Action.
Champions and leaders for historic cities
Learn more about World Heritage Cities thanks to the video messages from elected representatives, site managers, city authorities and other key stakeholders.
There are more than 300 World Heritage Cities in all five global regions. Browse their diversity and richness through the interactive map.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of
Decisions / Resolutions (6)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/5A,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 5A adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017) and Decision 40 COM 5D adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
- Takes note with appreciation of the activities undertaken by the World Heritage Centre over the past year in pursuit of the Expected Result to ensure that “tangible heritage is identified, protected, monitored and sustainably managed by Member States, in particular through the effective implementation of the 1972 Convention”, and the five strategic objectives as presented in Document WHC/18/42.COM/5A;
- Welcomes the proactive role of the Secretariat for enhancing synergies between the World Heritage Convention and the other Culture and Biodiversity-related Conventions, particularly the integration of relevant synergies aspects in the revised Periodic Reporting Format and the launch of a synergy-related web page on the Centre’s website;
- Also welcomes the increased collaboration among the Biodiversity-related Conventions through the Biodiversity Liaison Group and focused activities, including workshops, joint statements and awareness-raising;
- Takes note of the Thematic studies on the recognition of associative values using World Heritage criterion (vi) and on interpretation of sites of memory, funded respectively by Germany and the Republic of Korea and encourages all States Parties to take on board their findings and recommendations, in the framework of the identification of sites, as well as management and interpretation of World Heritage properties;
- Noting the discussion paper by ICOMOS on Evaluations of World Heritage Nominations related to Sites Associated with Memories of Recent Conflicts, decides to convene an Expert Meeting on sites associated with memories of recent conflicts to allow for both philosophical and practical reflections on the nature of memorialization, the value of evolving memories, the inter-relationship between material and immaterial attributes in relation to memory, and the issue of stakeholder consultation; and to develop guidance on whether and how these sites might relate to the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention, provided that extra-budgetary funding is available and invites the States Parties to contribute financially to this end;
- Also invites the States Parties to support the activities carried out by the World Heritage Centre for the implementation of the Convention;
- Requests the World Heritage Centre to present, at its 43rd session, a report on its activities.
- Welcomes the progress report on the implementation of the World Heritage Thematic Programmes and Initiatives, notes their important contribution towards implementation of the Global Strategy for representative World Heritage List, and thanks all States Parties, donors and other organizations for having contributed to achieving their objectives;
- Acknowledges the results achieved by the World Heritage Cities Programme and calls States Parties and other stakeholders to provide human and financial resources ensuring the continuation of this Programme in view of its crucial importance for the conservation of the urban heritage inscribed on the World Heritage List, for the implementation of the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape and its contribution to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals related to cities as well as for its contribution to the preparation of the New Urban Agenda, and further thanks to China and Croatia for their support for the implementation of the Programme;
- Also acknowledges the results achieved of the World Heritage Marine Programme, also thanks Flanders, France and the Annenberg Foundation for their support, notes the increased focus of the Programme on a global managers network, climate change adaptation strategies and sustainable fisheries, and invites States Parties, the World Heritage Centre and other stakeholders to continue to provide human and financial resources to support for the implementation of the Programme;
- Further acknowledges the results achieved in the implementation of the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, in particular the development of the Sustainable Tourism and Visitor Management Assessment tool and encourages States Parties to participate in the pilot testing of the tool, expresses appreciation for the funding provided by the European Commission and further thanks the Republic of Korea, Norway, and Seabourn Cruise Line for their support in the implementation of the Programme’’s activities;
- Further notes the progress in the implementation of the Small Island Developing States Programme, its importance for a representative, credible and balanced World Heritage List and building capacity of site managers and stakeholders to implement the World Heritage Convention, thanks furthermore Japan and the Netherlands for their support as well as the International Centre on Space Technology for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST) and the World Heritage Institute of Training & Research for the Asia & the Pacific Region (WHITRAP) as Category 2 Centres for their technical and financial supports and also requests the States Parties and other stakeholders to continue to provide human, financial and technical resources for the implementation of the Programme;
- Takes note of the activities implemented jointly by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and ICOMOS under the institutional guidance of the World Heritage Centre, in line with its Decision 40 COM 5D, further requests the World Heritage Centre to disseminate among the States Parties the second volume of the IAU/ICOMOS Thematic Study on Astronomical Heritage and renames this initiative as Initiative on Heritage of Astronomy, Science and Technology;
- Also takes note of the progress report on the Initiative on Heritage of Religious Interest, endorses the recommendations of the Thematic Expert Consultation meetings focused on Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe (UNESCO, 2016), Asia-Pacific (Thailand, 2017) and Eastern Europe (Armenia, 2018), thanks the States Parties for their generous contribution and reiterates its invitation to States Parties and other stakeholders to continue to support this Initiative, as well as its associated Marketplace projects developed by the World Heritage Centre;
- Takes note of the activities implemented by CRATerre in the framework of the World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme, under the overall institutional guidance of the World Heritage Centre, and of the lines of action proposed for the future, if funding is available;
- Invites States Parties, international organizations and donors to contribute financially to the Thematic Programmes and Initiatives as the implementation of thematic priorities is no longer feasible without extra-budgetary funding;
- Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre to submit an updated result-based report on Thematic Programmes and Initiatives, under Item 5A: Report of the World Heritage Centre on its activities, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7.1,
2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7.2, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Taking note with satisfaction of Decision 181 EX/29 adopted by the Executive Board at its 181st session (April 2009) on the preliminary study on the technical and legal aspects relating to the desirability of a standard-setting instrument on the Conservation of the Historic Urban Landscape,
4. Encourages the General Conference to take action at its 35th session (October 2009) aimed at drawing up a new standard-setting instrument in the form of a Recommendation on the Conservation of the Historic Urban Landscape;
5. Requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to report on this matter at its 34th session in 2010;
6. Welcomes the principle of adopting the concept of Historic Urban Landscape in the text of the Operational Guidelines but requests that further reflection be given before any final decision is made;
7. Also requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to seek extra-budgetary funds with the aim to convene an Expert Meeting with the mandate to prepare in cooperation with the Advisory Bodies and other professional and academic institutions a draft text for the possible inclusion of the Historic Urban Landscape in the relevant sections of the Operational Guidelines and identify significant case-studies for continuing evaluation and possible inclusion as best practice in an appendix, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;
8. Takes note with gratitude of the offer of Brazil to host this meeting in Rio de Janeiro;
9. Further requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre in cooperation with the Advisory Bodies to further identify methods and processes towards the establishment of guidelines on the assessment of the impact of contemporary architectural insertions on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties for discussion by the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2010.Read more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7.2,
2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 5D, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005) and Resolution 15 GA 7, adopted at the 15th General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention (UNESCO, 2005),
3. Noting decision 179EX/25 regarding a "Proposal by the Director-General for the preparation of a revised recommendation concerning the safeguarding and contemporary role of historic areas" that includes a full preliminary study of the technical and legal aspects of the issue;
4. Commends the Advisory Bodies ICOMOS, ICCROM and IUCN, and partner organizations UIA (International Union of Architects), IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects), IFHP (International Federation for Housing and Planning), OWHC (Organization of World Heritage Cities) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for their continued support and participation in this important initiative;
5. Requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to prepare a plan of action and timetable, setting out the timeframe for developing new Orientation Guidelines on management of historic urban World Heritage properties including impact assessment tools, for submission to the Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.Read more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/12,
2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 12 adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),
3. Emphasizing that setting precise but realistic and measurable results and indicators is essential for effective performance appraisal and monitoring,
4. Takes note of the set of performance indicators of all the World Heritage Thematic Programmes which are structured according to the four Strategic Objectives set at its 26th session (Budapest, 2002);
5. Encourages the Director of the World Heritage Centre to seek appropriate funding for these Thematic Programmes and invites donors to provide financial support to this effort;
6. Further requests a management audit in order to facilitate the development of the strategic plan for reinforcing the implementation of the Convention, and that no management structure changes at the World Heritage Centre should occur until the management audit is completed.Read more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Annex 2 of Document WHC-05/29.COM/5,
2. Expresses its sincere appreciation to the State Party of Austria, the City of Vienna, the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM, and to the partner organizations: Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC), International federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), International Union of Architects (IUA) and International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), for their successful collaboration in the organisation of the international conference on “World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture - Managing the Historic Urban Landscape” (Vienna, 12 -14 May 2005);
3. Takes note of the report and welcomes the Vienna Memorandum adopted at the above-mentioned international conference;
4. Encourages States Parties to integrate the notion of historic urban landscape in nomination proposals and in the laboration of management plans of properties nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List;
5. Also encourages States Parties to integrate the principles expressed in the Vienna Memorandum into their heritage conservation policies;
6. Requests the Advisory Bodies and the World Heritage Centre to take into account the conservation of the historic urban landscape when reviewing any potential impact on the integrity of an existing World Heritage property, and during the nomination evaluation process of new sites;
7. Recommends that the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention at its 15th session (UNESCO, 2005) adopt, on the basis of the Vienna Memorandum, a Declaration on the Conservation of Historic Urban Landscapes;
8. Also recommends that the General Conference of UNESCO adopt a new recommendation to complement and update the existing ones on the subject of conservation of historic urban landscapes, with special reference to the need to link contemporary architecture to the urban historic context.Read more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Notes the information contained in working document WHC-02/CONF.202/13B on an analysis of the major conservation issues identified through a review of the international assistance requests, state of conservation reports and the periodic reporting exercise;
2. Further notes the implementation status of the four World Heritage Programmes (Sustainable Tourism, Cities, Earthen Architecture and Forests) adopted by the Committee at its 25th session in December 2001 and initial proposals for future Programmes;
3. Invites the Director-General to develop new Regional Programmes based on the needs specifically identified through the regional periodic reporting exercise with a view to achieve the new Strategic Objectives and to submit these programmes for consideration and adoption at the 27th session of the Committee in June/July 2003;
4. Further invites the Director-General to propose targets (outputs) and a timetable for their implementation.Read more about the decision