Historical background of the OWHC
1972: UNESCO adopts the World Heritage Convention
On November 16, 1972, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopts the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Under the provisions of this Convention, the UNESCO World Heritage Intergovernmental Committee each year inscribes on the World Heritage List natural or cultural sites which must be submitted for listing by member States that have signed the Convention.
1991: First International Symposium of World Heritage Cities is held in Québec City (Canada)
With the cooperation of the Governments of Québec and Canada and under the auspices of UNESCO, Québec City is the site of the First International Symposium of World Heritage Cities from June 30 to July 4, 1991. At the conclusion of this meeting, the delegates from the 41 participating cities adopt the Québec City Declaration in which the desire to set up a network of World Heritage Cities was stated. A Provisional Executive Committee of nine mayors is created to take action.
1993: The Organization of World Heritage Cities is founded at Fez (Morocco)
After discussions during the Second International Symposium of World Heritage Cities, held in Fez (Morocco), delegates from 56 participating cities meet on September 8, 1993 in the Founding General Assembly and decide to create the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). The Statutes adopted at that time specify the mission, the goals and powers of this international non-profit non-governmental organization. The Founding General Assembly accepts the proposal by the Mayor of Québec City and President of the Provisional Executive Committee to establish the headquarters of the Organization in Québec City. The eight members of the Board of Directors and the Secretary General were elected by the General Assembly.
1995: Bergen (Norway) hosts four concurrent events
Preceded by a seminar organized under the auspices of the Council of Europe at Santiago de Compostela in November 1994, the Third International Symposium of World Heritage Cities is held in Bergen (Norway). The Symposium dealt with communication among World Heritage Cities. In addition, the General Assembly addressed issues which included the action plan and the 1996-1997 budget forecasts. Bergen was also the site of two events organized by UNESCO concurrently with the OWHC meeting, namely an exhibit of photos and maquettes from World Heritage Cities and the First International Forum of Youth on World Heritage. The OWHC General Assembly also ratifies the Bergen Protocol on communication and exchange among World Heritage Cities. This protocol is signed in the presence of H.E. Joseph Verner Reed and has as parties UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
1997 : More than 500 participants at the 4th International Symposium in Evora (Portugal)
The 4th International Symposium of World Heritage Cities held in Evora, Portugal from September 17 to 20 gathered, in addition to 500 participants, many international institutions such as UNESCO, the World Bank, the World Tourism Organization, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the European Council and the Getty Conservation Institute. "Tourism and World Heritage Cities - Challenges and Opportunities" was the subject of discussions. After only 4 years of existence, the OWHC has reached a world standing through its status such as "Observer member on the Cultural Heritage Committee of the Council of Europe" and also a "Non-Governmental Organization in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations". Furthermore, the agreement UNESCO-OWHC signed on September 6, 1997 confirms the Organization's association with UNESCO and their joint efforts regarding the World Heritage cities.
1999: New program and lively elections in Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
Seventy (70) mayors, participants from 45 countries and representatives of UNESCO, the World Tourism Organization, ICCROM, ICOMOS, the Nordic World Heritage Centre, etc. gathered in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, from October 20 to 23, 1999. Attendants spent four days discussing Innovation in the Management of World Heritage Cities . This theme generated several presentations, workshops and discussions and led to the adoption of the Santiago de Compostela Manifest. The General Assembly of the OWHC was held during the symposium. The work program for the next two years was adopted, including a project intended for youth in World Heritage Cities called CITY of CULTURE for PEACE . Finally, elections took place to choose members of the Board of Directors, the President and the host city of the 2001 symposium. The elections were hotly disputed but in a friendly atmosphere. Puebla, Mexico, was chosen as the host of the 2001 symposium.
2001: A Colorful Symposium in Puebla (Mexico)
Despite the attack on New York on 11 September, the 6th International Symposium, which took place in Puebla (Mexico) October 3-5, 2001, welcomed 1 300 participants. All of them were able to exchange ideas and experiences on the theme "Prevention and Protection Measures for World Heritage Cities in Case of Disaster". The highlights included a float and marching band parade in the streets of Puebla with the participation of over 1 000 children wearing their country's traditional costumes; the opening ceremony during which the big winner of the drawing contest "CITY of CULTURE for PEACE", a young Brazilian girl from São Luís, was awarded a prize worth US$5 000 - a trip to one or more World Heritage Cities in 2002 -; the General Assembly that elected two new Mayors to the Board of Directors, i.e. the Mayors of Cuenca (Ecuador) and Vilnius (Lithuania), in addition to the re-election of two Mayors, Evora (Portugal) and Toledo (Spain); the election by the Assembly of the new President, the mayor of Toledo (Spain), and the selection of the host of the 7th International Symposium, the city of Rhodes (Greece).
2003: A world class symposium in Rhodes (Greece)
Whether it be because of the quality of the presentations or the origin of the 922 participants, the professional level of the organization or else the events that were held, this OWHC symposium will make history. Specific workshops intended for the mayors who hold power, specialists who have the know-how and the young people to whom the future belongs were organized and were concluded by a common session focussed on shaping the future of the OWHC. The very structure of the OWHC was reviewed through the adoption of new by-laws. Moreover, the participants took the opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the OWHC. In addition, the Mayors of the following cities were elected to the Board of Directors: Rhodes (President), Vilnius (Vice-President Treasurer), Bergen, Cordoba, Cuenca Kazan, Puebla and Sousse (Vice-Presidents). The city of Cusco in Peru was chosen to be the host of the 8th International Symposium of the OWHC in 2005.
2005: A success in terms of novelties in Cusco (Peru)
2007 : A World Congress with a multicultural flavor in Kazan (Russian Federation)
Kazan showed itself as a city of diversity and cultural richness. The World Congress of the OWHC welcomed 1,000 participants from some sixty countries and was marked by the quality of the events organized by the Mayor, Ilsour Metshin and his team. Given the success of the Congress in Cusco in 2005, the Getty Conservation Institute once again developed the general theme of the Congress “Heritage and Economics” as well as the Mayors’ Workshop. Participants also had the opportunity to hear presentations made by internationally renowned speakers and to have discussions with them. In addition, the following mayors were elected to the Board of Directors for the term 2007-2009: Cuenca(President), Beemster (Vice-President), Kandy (Vice-President), Kazan (Vice-President), Luang Prabang (Vice-President), Lyon (Vice-President) and Vienna (Vice-President). Finally, the City of Quito, Ecuador was elected to host the 2009 World Congress of the OWHC.
2009: An exceptional World Congress in Quito (Ecuador)
The 498 participants from 85 cities (45 Countries) had the opportunity to participate in the scientific sessions having the theme “The revitalization of historic centres: how to involve all social actors?” For the third consecutive World Congress, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) organized sessions that included presentations by three internationally recognized experts, a panel discussion on public-private partnerships, as well as small group discussions and a poster session dealing with case studies of the cities. The third Mayors’ Workshop organized in collaboration with the GCI that preceded the World Congress was a great success. It dealt with experiences of the host city and included site visits. In addition, the following mayors were elected to the Board of Directors for the term 2009-2011: Beemster (President), Vienna (Vice-President), Aranjuez (Vice-President), Kazan (Vice-President), Lyon (Vice-President) Melaka (Vice-President), Puebla (Vice-President), and Quito (Vice-President). Finally the City of Sintra, Portugal was elected to host the 2011 World Congress of the OWHC.
2011: A Congress with environmental concerns in Sintra (Portugal)
The 11th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities was held in Sintra, Portugal. On the occasion of this great international gathering more that 350 participants from 145 cities (70 countries) had discussions and exchanges on the theme “World Heritage Cities and Climate Change”. On the scientific level, mayors, elected officials, municipal specialists and experts from around the globe benefited greatly from the presentations and discussions that took place in the different sessions of the Congress. In addition, members cities in good standing of the OWHC reunited in the General Assembly to hold their biennial meeting and proceeded in the election of a new Board of Directors for the period 2011-2013 composed of the mayors of : Beemster (President), Valparaiso (Vice-President), Bordeaux, Quito (Vice-President), Puebla (Vice-President), Cordoba (Vice-President), Vienna (Vice-President) and Sintra (Vice-President). Finally, the City of Oaxaca, Mexico was elected to host the 12th World Congress of the OWHC in 2013.