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organization of world heritage cities members

Author m_m
#1 | Posted: 26 Jul 2008 23:35 
do any of you know how cities are chosen as members of the organization of world heritage cities? since i think the standards are quite unclear. shirakawa-go and gokayama, which are inscribed on the list as villages by the way, are included as members. but how come xidi and hongcun are not? berlin was recently included despite the fact that only individual groups of buildings, not the city centre, is included on the list. but if such is the case, how come beijing is not a member? anyway, how come potsdam became a member of the organization upon the inscription of its palaces, but berlin only became a member this year? halstatt is included, even though the entire cultural landscape is the one recognized on the list, the same is also the case for ghardaia, even though the entire region of m'zab valley was recognized. but if such is the case, how come krems, part of the wachau cultural landscape world heritage site, is not a member of the world heritage cities? interesting that dresden is also not a member, when it has been explicitly stated in the description of the dresden elbe valley that its historic center is also included...

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 28 Jul 2008 07:28 | Edited by: Solivagant 
I am sure you will have looked at their web site which gives the background, Mission Statement etc

I notice one aspect close to Els's heart - namely that, surprisingly, the UNESCO WHS logo isn't displayed anywhere that I can see on the OWHC site. Ths might be taken to imply that the organisation has less than wholehearted support from UNESCO iself. That this is not the case is demonstrated by the fact that UNESCO is a "partner" to OWHC and indeed refers to it and its jamborees on its own site. UNESCO also has a cooperation agreement with OWHC, which attends UNESCO meetings as an observer.

The word "Jamboree" takes me back to a possible reason why some cities (even Villages!!) are members and some not. No doubt it costs to join (Its site refers to "annual membership fees" but I cannot discover what these might be - there is quite a bureaucracy to support!!) but a nice little pay back will be the "fact finding visits" and annual conferences in far flung locations eg Puebla (twice!), Cuzco, Bergen and Quebec) which accompany membership. From my own country the good burghers of Edinburgh, Bath, Liverpool and Telford (for Ironbridge) have thought it "worth" joining. No doubt they will point to benefits in terms of improved management and tourism promotion etc (another logo on the City's signage and letterheading always goes down well!). My general impression is that the 215 member cities are generally of the "second ranking". They no doubt will claim that they will benefit more from such membership and the information exchange it allows compared with the largest cities. If I were a Council Tax payer in Bath where, no doubt, public lavatories are being closed, car park charges increased and rubbish collections curtailed I would be wanting to question the motives and benefits of membership - but then I am a born cynic!

PS. Riga has been considering joining and i discovered this snippet about annual costs and perceived benefits (I am impressed with the "open government" practices in Latvia!)
"As an OWHC member, Riga will have to pay the annual membership fee of 2,604 US dollars, but the organisation will include information on the Latvian capital in its internet site monthly visited by some 27,000 people all over the world. Riga will also be able to take part in all the activities by the OWHC, elect and be elected to the leading positions of the organisation."
The membership fee doesn't seem very high - whether it varies by size of city/GDP per head of the country involved I know not. There would surely have to be some variation - an African city paying the same as Bath would seem impossible.
Bath is coy about any overseas visits carried out by its employees (other than an old detail :- "A representative of the Chair of this Council attends the bi-annual OWHC Congress and in parallel the next North-European regional meeting at Santiago di Compostela") but seems to have hosted a number of visits from elsewhere
"Recent visits have included a group of Chinese planners on a study tour of historic cities, a group of Indian heritage specialists studying management plans and urban conservation, and heritage tourism planners from Romania.
These visits provide us with an opportunity to share our experience with other cities and countries, and to learn from different approaches around the world. This broadens our attitudes to heritage management and reminds us that we are managing an internationally important city."

Author Solivagant
#3 | Posted: 14 Jun 2009 06:42 | Edited by: Solivagant 
I received an "alert" today ( us_100204799.html ) containing these phrases
"first step to help Delhi bag Unesco World Heritage City status" and "The World Heritage City status is granted by Unesco after a complex screening of the heritage conservation of a city and its history. Some major heritage cities include London, Rome and Jerusalem"

Strange?? As we know, Delhi already has 3 different UNESCO-inscribed sites (and indeed wants a 4th with its Jantar Mantar as part of a serial site) - why then would it want to go through all the hassle and downsides of inscribing an "entire" city?
Well of course it isn't - it must be referring to our old friend the "Organisation of World Heritage Cities" (OWHC) as discussed above - hence the reference to putting "the capital in the list of 220 heritage cities worldwide"!! By the way, despite the Indian comment above, London is not a member - but the Dutch contributors to this forum should note that the metropolis (megalopolis even??) of Beemster IS!!! The current full list of 224 member "cities" - which certainly doesn't include Delhi yet, is on

But why all this reference to the status being "granted" by UNESCO after "complex screening"? Membership of the OWHC is open to any city which has a World Heritage inscribed site within its boundaries and pays the necessary dues (Note that Dresden has been a member but will presumably have to leave if it is delisted?). Does anyone know anything different? As mentioned above the site doesn't even have to be within the strict definition of the "City". One example of this used to be that well known UK World Heritage New Town of "Telford" but it doesn't seem to be on the current list. It was back in July of last year and was able to join because Ironbridge is inside its administrative boundaries. Perhaps it has decided that the cost isn't worthwhile or else it doesn't like the location of the next conference (surprising as it is in Quito this September -a pleasant trip for any Mayor one would have thought)!

Actually, making use of this organisation within a city's tourist strategy has some hidden benefits, as the action of Delhi shows - get at least 1 geographically-limited site inscribed as a WHS near you or inside your larger city (As Beemster shows, it doesn't even need to be a true "city" - a medium sized town or even a village can still do this!) and then leverage the kudos of calling your town a "World Heritage City". You can do this by creating (tourist) "routes" to places whose only connection to the original inscribed site is that they are on the same "tourist route" you have just created!

Warsaw is doing exactly the same with its "Royal Route" ( ). This includes the inscribed WHS of old Warsaw centre but encompasses far more. Warsaw has realised apparently that its "cultural and tourist attractions are unable to compete with its neighboring European capital(s)" - so it uses this approach of "trading" on the UNESCO brand using the "half truth" that links the entire city to it!

So, for instance, if Amsterdam does eventually decide to push on with inscribing a rather more limited part of the canal area than was originally envisaged it needn't worry that it has limited its tourism opportunities - by so doing it will minimise all that ICOMOS hassle and can still call itself a "World Heritage City" by joining OWHC!! There may be very few tourists who would actually be persuaded to visit Amsterdam because of a WHS listing given all its other well known attractions (!!) but this approach might get a few to follow a UNESCO linked "cheese route" or similar and thus spread the tourist money a bit more widely!

Perhaps Edinburgh could leverage both its UNESCO inscription and its membership of OWHC (so proudly touted!) by initiating a "World Heritage City Golf Route" starting off at the Castle - going through the Bruntsfield Links and then on to Leith even though they would be outside the inscribed area! Your "average tourist" will know nothing of the official boundaries of the inscribed site but will still be impressed by the title "World Heritage City" thinking it covers everywhere!

Author Nem
#4 | Posted: 14 Jun 2009 17:47 | Edited by: Nem 
'Role of the OWHC with respect to the World Heritage Convention

While the Organization of World Heritage Cities does not appear with ICCROM, ICOMOS and the IUCN among the partner organizations of UNESCO indicated in the World Heritage Convention, the General by Laws of the OWHC stipulate that it is dedicated to the implementation of the 1972 Convention. This initiative by the OWHC was officially recognized by Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, at the opening of the Third International Symposium of World Heritage Cities held in Bergen in June 1995: "The World Heritage Convention relies heavily on the services provided by several important professional networks, in particular the IUCN, ICCROM and ICOMOS. The Secretariat [of the World Heritage Centre] and I deem the OWHC to be equally important."

By fostering communications between managers and the exchange of know-how pertaining to the management of World Heritage Cities, (see ) the OWHC is helping to support public officials in the execution of the responsibilities that each government that is a party to the Convention has assumed by signing the agreement, i.e. to act as the key guarantor of the preservation of the sites and monuments included on the UNESCO World Heritage List located within its territory.'

Edinburgh: The Old and New Towns have enough interest as it is, and a growing amount of sound research is being shared, is it not? Plenty of walks within the WHS without having to expand. I think that the average tourist interested in World Heritage will have enough to do within the WHS of the Old and New Towns.

There was a decent article in this week's Guardian giving walks both in Edinburgh and in Bath, another beautiful WH city. Of course, the entire City of Bath is a WHS, so any route could be touted as a WH trail. However, I doubt it will happen.

The Old Town Festival, for anyone interested in Edinburgh, is about to kick off. It's not only about tourism, it's also about a living city for residents.

Possibly though Liverpool (not a member) might like to call its Beatles trail the World Heritage City Beatles Trail. No double the council will be delighted at any other suggestions to encourage tourism. I'm not sure that the new museum on the waterfront will quite do the trick, nor the Mann Island development.

However, this could prove interesting to follow:

I note the website has a 'contact' section. No doubt contact will elicit some answers.

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 organization of world heritage cities members

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