Introduction and mission
Created in 1991 following the First International Symposium of World Heritage Cities which took place in July of that year in Québec (Canada), the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) was officially founded on 8 September 1993 in Fez (Morocco). The Organization connects with more than 300 cities having on their territory a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, with a total population of over 164 million people. They are represented in the Organization by their mayor, with the active participation of elected municipal officials and heritage managers.
The OWHC’s headquarters are located in Québec City (Canada).
The main objectives of the Organization are:
- to favor the implementation of the World Heritage Convention;
- to encourage co-operation and the exchange of information and expertise on matters of conservation and management of urban heritage;
- to develop a sense of solidarity among its member cities
To this end, the OWHC organizes many meetings: World Congresses, conferences, seminars and workshops dealing with the challenges to be met in the realm of management and strategies pertaining to the preservation and enhancement of historic cities. Moreover, the OWHC offers to its member cities many programs and projects which aim to promote and support the maintenance, recognition and enhancement of their world heritage: Youth on the Trail of World Heritage, Jean-Paul-L’Allier Prize for Heritage, International Video Production Competition, Solidarity day of World Heritage Cities – September 8, Mayors&Heritage, Zoom on Urban Heritage, The OWHC Grants, Case Studies, etc.
The Mayors of World Heritage cities that have paid their annual membership fees make up the General Assembly, the Organization’s paramount authority. The General Assembly meets every two years.
The Board of Directors is made up of eight Mayors elected by the General Assembly. It meets at least once a year.
The General Secretariat is directed by the Secretary General, appointed by the General Assembly, who oversees the execution of mandates adopted by the members, the day-to-day administration of the Organization, personnel management and hiring.
Nine Regional Secretariats support the work of the General Secretariat:
- Regensburg (Germany) for Northwest Europe and North America
- Warsaw (Poland) for Central and Eastern Europe
- Córdoba (Spain) for Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
- Cuzco (Peru) for South America
- Kazan (Russian Federation) for Euro-Asia
- Tunis (Tunisia) for Africa and Middle East
- Gyeongju (South Korea) for Asia-Pacific
- Morelia (Mexico) for Central America, Caribbean and Mexico
As an international non-profit non-governmental organization, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) was created to assist member cities adapt and improve their management methods in relation to the specific requirements of having a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In accordance with its General By-Laws, the OWHC has the following goals:
contribute to the implementation of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the International Charter for the Protection of Historic Cities;
encourage, on both regional and international levels, cooperation and the exchange of information and expertise among historic cities throughout the world in close collaboration with other organizations pursuing similar goals while promoting action likely to support the efforts of cities located in developing countries;
in cooperation with specialized organizations, ensure better links between research undertaken by specialists or experts and the needs of local management;
sensitize the populations to heritage values and their protection
In order to adequately demonstrate the international aspect of the Organization as well as the great diversity of its heritage cities, the OWHC operates in five official languages: French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese, the first three having the status of working languages.