Site Managers call for inclusive and place-based management approaches

The fourth edition of the World Heritage Site Managers’ Forum hosted by the People’s Republic of China was held online from 7 to 13 July 2021, in conjunction with the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting. This year the Forum hosted 90 site managers and coordinators representing 82 World Heritage properties from 48 countries worldwide. The IUCN-ICCROM World Heritage Leadership programme organized the Forum jointly with the People’s Republic of China, the World Heritage Centre, and in collaboration with ICOMOS.

World Heritage and Governance
Group image with all site managers

The principal theme, “World Heritage governance - being prepared to manage change and continuity”, covered a variety of topics focused on strengthening inclusive and equitable governance arrangements for effective management at the site level. Over five days, participants discussed who should be involved in change preparation by looking at the wide range of rights-holders, communities and stakeholders that should be involved in managing and decision-making. The Forum centred around the heritage place approach, based on managing places of heritage values beyond their designated heritage boundaries and by involving a diversity of people and stakeholders.

Practitioners and representatives from ICCROM, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, IUCN and ICOMOS shared updates and provided guidance on upcoming resources. Among these are the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessment in a World Heritage Context, the Enhancing Our Heritage Toolkit 2.0, the Managing World Heritage Resource Manual and experience-sharing platforms, including the joint ICCROM-IUCN-ICOMOS PANORAMA Nature-Culture Thematic Community. Additionally, site managers and practitioners from World Heritage properties in China (Kulangsu and  Mogao Caves), Bahrain (Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy), Chile (Valparaíso), Italy (Florence), Malaysia (George Town), Senegal (Seloum Delta) and the transboundary site of Qhapaq Ñan (represented by coordinators from Argentina and Colombia), supported the implementation of the Forum by sharing their management work, their experiences in using existing tools and guidance, and the solutions they have applied at their sites.

Through interactive group work sessions and tools such as live surveys and polls, participants shared their experiences and challenges in working as site managers on the ground. The Forum used the case study of Kulangsu, a Historic International Settlement (China), to discuss management and governance structures. This offered participants a chance to look at the application of World Heritage processes and procedures and to reflect critically on their work. The event also allowed participants to provide feedback on the tools and resources currently available as well as others being prepared by the Advisory Bodies and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

World Heritage and Governance
Image from the session

Although the Forum was online, there were still opportunities for engagement between the participants. Forum alumni moderated a global networking session on 10 July 2021, which brought site managers together to discuss governance and management issues, challenges, opportunities and experiences across different regions.

Reflections from the Forum and the networking session were collected in a final Statement addressing the World Heritage Committee and all States Parties to the World Heritage Convention. Participants recalled paragraph 117 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention calling for “equitable governance arrangements” to be put in place for the effective management of properties. Site managers highlighted that consensus-based decision-making is often challenging to achieve due to non-inclusive governance structures. They have therefore requested for guidance to be developed, and have reiterated the need to continue supporting their work through capacity building activities.

The Statement calls for regular reviews, updates and integration of governance arrangements and management structures at World Heritage properties by placing these sites at the center of development strategies. Participants called for the need to ensure that management system be interconnected at different international, national and local levels, and these should include and consider values of local and national importance.

The Statement of the Forum was presented in the form of a short video at the World Heritage Committee meeting on Saturday 17 July 2021.

Interactive Map of World Heritage Properties that have participated in World Heritage Fora
Interactive Map of World Heritage Properties that have participated in World Heritage Fora


World Heritage Leadership

The World Heritage Leadership programme focuses on improving conservation and management practice of World Heritage sites by promoting place-based and people-centred approaches to the conservation of nature and culture, by working with sites and connecting people working on the sites.