Foundation and founder

Foundation of the Organization of World Heritage Cities – a historical perspective

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) and Québec City Declaration

With the cooperation of the Governments of Québec and Canada and under the auspices of UNESCO, Québec City hosted 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 adopted the Québec City Declaration in which the desire to set up a network of World Heritage Cities was stated. This declaration would therefore be the original motion of the Organization of World Heritage Cities or at least, its first breath. A Provisional Executive Committee is set up to ensure a follow-up of the symposium and signify the real desire to create an organization for World Heritage cities.

1993: The Organization of World Heritage Cities is founded at Fez (Morocco)

After discussions during the Second International Symposium of World Heritage Cities, delegates from 56 participating cities meet on September 8, 1993 at 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, Jean-Paul L’Allier, to establish the headquarters of the Organization in Québec City. The first eight members of the Board of Directors and the Secretary General were also elected by the General Assembly. The OWHC General Secretariat is still today in the city of Québec, in Canada.

Jean-Paul L’Allier
Founder of the Organization of World Heritage Cities

Jean-Paul L’Allier graduated in law and political science from the Université de Montréal (BA 1959) and the University of Ottawa (LLL, 1962, DESD, 1963).

He was an attorney in private practice in Ottawa and Hull, and a professor of the Law Faculty at the University of Ottawa before becoming a senior research fellow with the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development in Morocco from 1964 to 1966.

From 1966 to 1968, he was the director of cooperation with the Québec government’s department of cultural affairs and coordinator for the Québec government during visits of heads of state to Expo 67 in Montréal. He was named the first secretary general of the joint Franco-Québec youth office (Office franco-québécois pour la jeunesse) in 1968. Until 1970, he led its development prior to becoming the minister responsible for the Office and president of the Board of Directors until 1976.

Politics at the service of culture and heritage

Deputy of Deux-Montagnes at the National Assembly of Québec, he served as a minister in the Bourassa government from 1970 to 1976; as the Minister of Youth leisure and Sports in 1970; Minister of Public Service from 1970 to 1972; Minister of Communications from 1970 to 1975; Minister of Cultural Affairs in 1975; member of Québec’s Treasury Board in 1976; and member of the Legislative Committee during this entire period. He was president of the interdepartmental committee on the quality of life until the election of 1976.

At the close of the 1970s, L’Allier was president of the Board of Directors of the Grand Théâtre de Québec and president of the Fondation du Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde in Montréal. He was Québec’s Delegate General in Brussels from 1981 to 1984, and the honorary consul of Belgium in Québec from 1985 to 1988.

Québec – World Heritage jewel

He was elected Mayor of Québec City on November 5, 1989 and held this position until December 2005. He was the president of the Communauté métropolitaine de Québec and member of the Board of Directors of the Union des municipalités du Québec. He was also vice-president of the Association internationale des maires et responsables des capitales et métropoles partiellement ou entièrement francophones (AIMF) and president of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

Foundation of the Organization of World Heritage Cities

In 1991, Mr. L’Allier founded the Organization of World Heritage and presided over the organization until 1999. Born out of a desire for outreach, the OWHC now reaches out to more than 300 cities worldwide.

Back to law and education

Proud of a busy political career, L’Allier then returns to practice law as an attorney and strategic advisor for business development with the firm of Langlois Kronström Desjardins, one of the main legal firms in Québec.

He was also a visiting professor at Université Laval where he participated in teaching and research activities at the École supérieure d’aménagement du territoire et du développement régional, and the political science, geography, and information and communication departments.

Jean-Paul L’Allier died in Québec City on January 5, 2016, at the age of 77.


  • Named Officer of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic on May 12, 1992.
  • Recipient of the Frederick Todd prize awarded by the Association des architectes paysagistes du Québec, in 1997.
  • First recipient of the Gérald-Dame prize awarded by the Regroupement des centres-villes et artères commerciales, in 2001.
  • The Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV awarded him a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, on October 3, 2002.
  • Conferred the title of Commander of the Ordre de la Pléiade (Ordre de la Francophonie et du dialogue des cultures), on March 11, 2003.
  • The Ordre des urbanistes du Québec awarded him the Blanche Lemco Van Ginkel prize to highlight his significant contribution to urban planning in Québec, on November 6, 2003.
  • Conferred the title of Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, on June 23, 2004.
  • The Ordre des architectes du Québec awarded him the Thomas-Baillairgé prize to highlight his exceptional contribution to the promotion and conservation of the quality of the living environment in Québec, on June 10, 2005.
  • Honoured with the title of Commander of the Ordre de Léopold for his determining role in the development of relations between Belgium and Québec, on September 26, 2005.
  • Promoted, in Paris, to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic to mark France’s gratitude for his work in the service of friendship between Québec and France, and to highlight his front-ranking contribution to the outreach of the French language and the promotion of political, cultural and economic exchange between Québec City, Québec and many French partners, on October 7, 2005.
  • The Université du Québec made him a Doctor honoris causa for the important role that he played in the establishment of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique in Québec City, on May 16, 2006.
  • The University of Ottawa awarded him the Ordre du mérite de la Section de droit civil, on September 6, 2006.
  • In 2009, the OWHC created the Jean-Paul-L’Allier Prize for Heritage. Every two years, it is offered to a city that has distinguished itself in heritage management or conservation.
  • The Quebec Chamber of Commerce named him Grand Québécois in the social sector for the year 2008.
  • Centraide Québec – Chaudière-Appalaches awarded him the Grand Prix de la Solidarité for the Cultural Sector at the Grand Brunch de la solidarité on April 6, 2008.
  • The Ordre des urbanistes du Québec has created the Jean-Paul L’Allier Award, which is awarded each year to an elected member who has distinguished himself by his vision, his leadership and his achievements in urban planning and development.