News & Press: Newsletter

IAP2 Participates in 14th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities

Friday, November 10, 2017  
Share |

14th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities


November 2017 - "Heritage and community: Tools to engage local communities" was the theme of this year's 14th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Mayors and other leaders of 280 cities that contain UNESCO World Heritage sites gathered to discuss this theme 31 October - 3 November in the ancient city of Gyeongju, capital of Korea's Silla Kingdom between 57 BCE - 935 CE

“By setting [this] theme, we have placed the communities at the heart of the conservation and heritage management processes, and consequently strengthened their ability to participate meaningfully in the process of decision-making for themselves and their heritage” explained Mayor of Gyeongju Yangsik Choi.

Cassandra Hemphill, IAP2 Federation's Professional Development Manager, participated in the two-day Experts Workshop, which was designed to support the adoption and implementation of the Tools for Community Engagement developed in two previous workshops hosted by the OWHC Asia-Pacific Region. OWHC-AP's Tools include a set of overarching principles; a spectrum of participation, which is based on IAP2's Public Participation Spectrum, and a matrix and questions to assess and evaluate the process.

Dr. Hemphill's presentation emphasized how OWHC could incorporate IAP2's Core Values to help institutionalize the tools they created, moving them from the ideal to the real. She highlighted IAP2's global role as an advocate for public participation and some of its many activities, including training and development opportunities and honoring best practices through awards and a peer-reviewed journal.

"IAP2 believes the deep understanding of civic engagement practices developed through our members’ first-hand experiences around the world can help OWHC meet its commitments to citizen engagement and people-centered heritage management," said Dr. Hemphill. "Public participation in democratic problem-solving and decision-making processes can help our societies and governments solve complex problems and reach robust, transparent, and sustainable outcomes."

Other presentations at the workshop by heritage specialists and other experts used case studies from around the world to examine how cities could benefit from well-structured community engagement programs and initiatives. For example, Mr. Nils Scheffer (of Urban Expert, Berlin) convened a representative group of stakeholders and citizens over a 2-year period to develop a comprehensive management plan for Regensburg (Germany); Dr. Duong Bich Hanh (UNESCO Bangkok) developed a pilot project to improve conservation at Ayutthaya (Thailand), which is improving working conditions for masons and craftspeople; and Dr. Ege Yildirim (ICOMOS Focal Point for the UN SDGs) brought together citizen groups, local officials and other stakeholders to lead the economic revitalization of the Silk Road community of Mudurnu (Turkey).

14th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities

The Experts Workshop culminated in a set of eight recommendations for mayors and other leaders to help them infuse community engagement in their cities' activities. The recommendations included preparation and dissemination of case studies using a standard, searchable format via open-access digital platforms, and the development of training opportunities leading to certification or other recognition for local leaders as well as site managers and city officials. The experts also acknowledged the relevance of the tools not only to World Heritage Cities but also to other urban areas and culturally important places.

OWHC regards World Heritage Cities as more than just a collection of monuments and sites but also as the intangible beliefs, stories and meanings that are attached to the places by people who live or work there or are otherwise associated with it. This people-centered approach places communities at the heart of the conservation and heritage management processes and has been enshrined in many recommendations, declarations, and articles, including the 2011 UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape and Principle 9 in the European Charter of the Architectural Heritage from 1975, which states that "Integrated conservation cannot succeed without the cooperation of all... [T]he public should be properly informed because citizens are entitled to participate in decisions affecting their environment."