Stralsund
Germany

About the OWHC

Context

Created in 1993, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) is headquartered in Quebec City, Canada. It is administered by the General Secretariat, supported by five (5) Regional Secretariats, and governed by the General Assembly, made up of the mayors of member cities in good standing, and by the Board of Directors, made up of eight (8) mayors.

As an international, non-profit, non-governmental organization, the OWHC is a political platform for cooperation between the mayors of cities whose territory includes a UNESCO World Heritage site.

At the 16th OWHC World Congress  (Quebec City, Canada, September 2022), mayors voiced their concerns about the challenges to which their cities are increasingly exposed. The combined effects of climate, economic, and social crises are putting considerable pressure on urban environments, which are particularly vulnerable in their historical and heritage dimensions. Faced with the scale of the changes underway, other ways of acting and new urban practices need to be considered.

The member cities of the OWHC have therefore decided to act together. Looking ahead to the 17th OWHC World Congress (Cordoba, Spain, September 2024), they are determined to draw up a “New Urban Project.” This system of common references, based on the shared experience and expertise of member cities, will contribute to the emergence of a new generation of urban development policies, strategies, and projects, nurtured by a heritage approach to sustainable development that reconciles the urban, the human, and the environmental.

OWHC’s mission

For the OWHC, historic cities are at the heart of the changes to come; world heritage cities, which share the privilege of defending the universal values of humanity and protecting an exceptional heritage, have a duty to be role models and assert a bold vision for the future.

With this in mind, the OWHC is taking specific action to:

  • Help individual member cities to better understand the complexity of today’s challenges.
  • Support member cities in expressing their legitimate aspirations regarding their future and their contribution to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

The 2022-2024 Action Plan as a driver for change

To fulfill this mission, the action plan adopted by the 25th General Assembly (September 2022) features various programs designed to:

  • Raise awareness of the social and economic value of urban heritage among local players (elected representatives, experts, residents).
  • Promote the exchange of information and experience.
  • Engage cities in exploration through concrete action at the grassroots level.

The program on which the OWHC is focusing until Cordoba in 2024 is the Québec Roadmap. It implements a collaborative process of reflection and technical design that actively involves all the cities and all the players in these cities. The process is based on a willingness to learn together by experimenting with new ways of doing things, and on a collective spirit that embraces the daring exploration of new ideas, approaches, and methodologies.

Ambitions for 2024

Cooperation between OWHC cities will provide the organization with an unprecedented participatory engineering tool to transform its working methods and help strengthen the political and scientific dimensions of the network.

Mayors will be able to express their political views to a greater extent, and cities will be more open to the world, better informed, stronger in their alliances and partnerships, and more effective in their actions thanks to the shared experience of other cities.

The OWHC’s “New Urban Project” will also help to bring member cities closer to an ideal of livable, cohesive, inclusive, and resilient cities. OWHC member cities, proud of their historical identities, are rich in heritage. These assets provide them with irreplaceable resources for the emergence of their modernity, to better prepare them for the climate transition, and to make them the preferred setting for a high quality of life.