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World Heritage cities management

Ana Pereira Roders, Ron van Oers,
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Ana Pereira Roders, Ron van Oers, (2011) "World Heritage cities management", Facilities, Vol. 29 Issue:
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World Heritage cities
Ana Pereira Roders
Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and
Ron van Oers
UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris, France
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Purpose – This article aims to introduce the special issue of the journal Facilities on “World Heritage
cities management”, together with the respective articles.
Design/methodology/approach – This introduction addresses the topic of world Heritage cities
management and its relevance to science and society. In so doing, it indirectly points to the emerging
field of cultural heritage management within facilities management.
Findings – Even though the management of cultural heritage assets is nothing new for facilities
managers, cultural heritage management as a field of research can be considered at a younger stage of
development than other related studies, such as the discipline of architectural conservation, which
originated in the nineteenth century with the advent of modernity. The application of management
practices to immovable cultural heritage assets emerged as recently as the 1990s. At a time in which
the role of culture and heritage in processes of sustainable development is gaining more ground, this
special issue can be seen as the first of more contributions to come, which aim to enhance the
conservation and management of cultural heritage assets for the benefit of present and future
Originality/value – This paper aims to make a contribution to the growing field of cultural heritage
management and is of use to facilities managers, scholars and consultants who have responsibilities
but limited knowledge in this field.
Keywords Heritage, Sustainable development, Urban areas, Culture
Paper type Research paper

Internationally acknowledged for its broad and multidisciplinary view on facilities
management, the journal Facilities was a pioneer in recognizing the need to pay
particular attention to the management of facilities that are legally designated as
cultural heritage. This special designation is attributed to facilities whose cultural
significance has led governments to distinguish them from other facilities, in order to
arrange for and manage their protection. Some facilities may be considered of
outstanding value at the local level, others at national level. However, only 911 sites
(704 cultural, 180 natural and 27 mixed) have so far been designated by the
international community as properties of outstanding universal value (hereinafter
OUV), appearing on the UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Facilities Whether local, national or international, governments share the responsibility for
Vol. 29 No. 7/8, 2011
pp. 276-285 the protection of these facilities for present and future generations. Thus, it seems only
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited fitting that due attention is paid to their proper management. Where in former times
DOI 10.1108/02632771111130898 this task was centered on the conservation of these facilities, primarily as individual
buildings or structures, nowadays it entails complex processes of management to deal World Heritage
with change of uses, changes in the surroundings, a widening circle of stakeholders cities
and competing demands as regards environmental, economic, social and cultural
requirements. As such, management practices have been progressing towards a more management
holistic approach, where the cultural significance (i.e. range of values attributed to
these facilities, from existence to use values and from socio-economic to environmental
and cultural values) is taken into account, whenever changes need to be applied to 277
these or other surrounding facilities (Pereira Roders, 2007).
As key resource, cultural heritage has become a driver for development, which
when properly managed can enhance the livability of their surrounding areas and
sustain productivity in a changing global environment. However, governments need to
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have clear strategies and effective methods for planning, designing, executing and
managing these facilities in order to optimize their production and consumption
potential, while preserving and where possible enhancing their cultural significance.
Unfortunately, there is still a gap between the practice and theory of cultural
heritage management. In practice there is a significant delay in shifting to a more
holistic approach, where planning and management is concerned, most certainly by
local governments. In theory, there is a lack of research to identify and design
innovative approaches, and to document and disseminate best practices for the
management cultural heritage facilities – whether in various parts of the world, or
within the same geo-cultural regions.
Dr Ana Pereira Roders and Dr Ron van Oers have dedicated this issue to the
management of very particular facilities, namely World Heritage cities. As this is a
rather complex notion, further elaboration on this notion follows below.
The main aim was to offer a broader range of authors – next to scholars also
facilities managers, other professionals, researchers and students – the opportunity to
submit articles on their experiences embracing the challenging field of cultural heritage
management. The objective has been to provide the international scientific community
and the stakeholders concerned with a few examples of management practices being
implemented in these facilities presented from different angles.
Authors from all regions and nationalities were invited to present a particular
World Heritage city as case study and address, where possible:
the relationship between its international, national and local designation;
the progress or obstacles when comparing management approaches pre- and
the variety of stakeholders involved in the property’s management (e.g.
governmental institutions, NGOs, owners’ associations, citizen advocacy groups,
the management tools employed (e.g. specific legislation, master plans, impact
assessments, software programmes, others) to identify, monitor and evaluate
changes, in the physical environment as well as the social perception, i.e. the
assigned values with their indicators, priorities and weights; and
the sustainability of current management practices and ways to improve them.

The submission of articles to the special issue came from all corners of the world and
although many merited attention and publication, it apparently proved a challenge for
F the authors to address all the above-mentioned considerations in a comprehensive
manner. It was evidence to the guest editors that the practice and theory of cultural
29,7/8 heritage management still shows a significant gap – all the more reason to justify this
special edition.
Preference has been given to those articles, which gave ample information and
insights on the impact of the management practices being implemented in the chosen
278 World Heritage cities, instead of theoretical reflections, research propositions or
academic surveys. In other words, the onus was put on the view from the playing field
of the practitioner more than the scholar, also because the experiences of this key
stakeholder group are not often presented in academic journals; at least not as much as
those of scholars. While obviously this has repercussions as regards the scientific
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content and value of the individual papers, the editors hope that this view will initiate
further scholarly reflections and fine-tune academic research – at least it will do so
with regard to the guest editors’ own research into the subject (Pereira Roders and Van
Oers, 2009).

World Heritage cities

Under the World Heritage Convention’s article 1 three types of immovable cultural
heritage are distinguished, being monuments, groups of buildings, and sites (UNESCO,
2008). While recently debates have flared up over the inappropriateness of this
classification when considering the nature and value of historic cities (Van Oers, 2006),
for the time being the Operational Guidelines to the Implementation of the World
Heritage Convention, in paragraph 14 of Annex 3, recognize three categories of
“historic towns and town centers”. Those are respectively:
(1) towns no longer inhabited, meaning urban archaeological sites such as Palmyra
in Syria, Angkor in Cambodia, or Tikal in Guatemala;
(2) inhabited historic towns, such as Djenne in Mali, Macau in China, or Baku in
Azerbaijan; and
(3) new towns of the twentieth century, such as Brasilia in Brazil, Le Havre in
France, or Tel Aviv in Israel.
The reason for this rather odd distinction of typologies in the Convention’s Operational
Guidelines is historical, as it was included right after inscription of Brasilia (Brazil) on
the World Heritage List, in 1987, as part of discussions in the framework of the
management of this new type of property, the first of its kind related to the modern era.
As such there is no officially recognized category of “World Heritage cities” under
the World Heritage Convention, and neither UNESCO, nor the International Council on
Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), nor the Organization of World Heritage Cities
(OWHC) has put forward any comprehensive definition.
When taking a closer look at the inscribed properties commonly labeled as World
Heritage cities, we find that some are actually historic towns or even villages; that
urban archeological sites are seldom considered; that there are World Heritage
properties which include various urban settlements or parts of them; that there are
World Heritage properties which include a network of assets within several urban
settlements; and that there are urban settlements which include one or more World
Heritage properties. It turns out that the notion World Heritage city is much broader in
nature and harbors a plethora of typologies, from cultural landscapes with cities in
them, to cities and large urbanized territories, to monumental ensembles within cities, World Heritage
to towns and clusters of towns, and eventually to secluded villages in a rural landscape cities
(UNESCO, 2010).
In a recent research project, the definition of “World Heritage city” was detached management
from the notion of one single World Heritage property of urban nature, but related to
the urban settlement where one or more World Heritage properties would be located.
Meaning that, for example, town centers would no longer be considered as World 279
Heritage cities. Instead, the whole town would be considered a World Heritage city,
because it involved a town centre inscribed on the World Heritage List (Pereira Roders,
2010). When looking from this angle, the number of World Heritage cities reaches the
amazing number of 832 urban settlements. This high number is mainly due to three
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factors. First, all urban settlements are considered, such as towns and villages, and not
just cities. Second, there are several serial nominations, which include buildings,
groups of buildings and/or sites located in various urban settlements. Third, a large
sum of the World Heritage properties, numbering 890 in total (as per May 2010 at the
time of the survey), was found currently located in or nearby urban settlements. More
than the definition in itself, this research outcome has important implications with
regards to the management of these World Heritage properties, as generally they may
be more vulnerable to the pressures of urbanization and urban development than other
World Heritage properties.
Depending on the viewpoint taken, whether it is for marketing and tourism
purposes, for site management and monitoring purposes, or for urban planning and
development purposes, to name a few, the definition of what is considered to be a
World Heritage city will differ, which in turn can influence the choice of management
strategies and consequently the work of their facilities managers. As the reader will
notice, a few of the papers presented in this issue vividly illustrate this.

World Heritage cities and their outstanding universal value

Only properties that are considered to be of outstanding universal value can be
inscribed on the World Heritage List, the decision of which is taken by the
intergovernmental World Heritage Committee (not UNESCO), an independent body of
21 elected officials representing countries that have ratified the World Heritage
Convention (i.e. the States Parties). Outstanding universal value, or OUV,
characterizing cultural heritage should be interpreted as an outstanding response to
issues of universal nature common to or addressed by all human cultures (UNESCO,
In response to the many challenges that local authorities and facilities managers
face in the protection and management of World Heritage cities, the World Heritage
Committee is requesting States Parties to prepare a statement of outstanding universal
value as part of the nomination requirements, which should identify precisely what is
considered to be of value, including the attributes that carry these values. The
reasoning is that it will facilitate the assessments of impacts on the designated
property and the decision making process as to what course to take. Upon adoption by
the Committee and inscription of the site on the World Heritage List, sustaining, and
where possible enhancing, OUV will become the overriding objective for the property’s
conservation and management. As such, getting on the World Heritage List constitutes
only the first, and arguably easiest, phase as maintaining the values for which the
F property was inscribed, in particular its OUV, requires a continuous effort that in
29,7/8 principle never ceases.
A statement of outstanding universal value (SOUV) “encapsulates why the property
is considered to be of OUV, how it satisfies the relevant criteria, the conditions of
integrity and (for cultural properties) authenticity, and how it meets the requirements
for protection and management in order to sustain OUV in the long-term” (UNESCO,
280 2010).
The SOUV is arrived at through:
an identification of the meanings of the site (taking into account conflicting
perceptions also), establishing the site’s integrity (social-functional,
historical-structural, visual-aesthetic) and authenticity (artistic, historical,
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the preparation of a thematic study for the identification of comparable sites in
relevant cultural regions;
the preparation of a comparative study for the identification of the relative value
based on comparison with similar sites;
a description of the category of property (monument, group of buildings, site;
single or serial) and its significance (the principal theme/story of the nominated
property); and last but not least
a selection of one or more of the ten World Heritage criteria.

World Heritage cities and their management challenges

World Heritage cities vary in nature as in their conditions. Some are in a good state of
conservation, such as Cusco in Peru, Safranbolu in Turkey or Cracow in Poland; others
are threatened by processes of urbanization and urban development, with alteration or
disfigurement of their urban fabric or environmental setting, such as Damascus in
Syria, Riga in Latvia, or Timbuktu in Mali. Again others are suffering from decay and
neglect and require major conservation interventions, such as Zabid in Yemen, Coro
and La Vela in Venezuela, or Ilha de Mocambique in Mozambique.
The 1972 World Heritage Convention (UNESCO, 1972) has been a major driver
behind the development of effective practices of urban heritage conservation and
management. With the growing amount of World Heritage properties located in or
nearby urban settlements the World Heritage Committee has invested a considerable
amount of time and effort over the past few years in identifying the challenges to the
conservation of urban heritage and to develop appropriate policy orientations,
management strategies and associated tools.
In the last decade particular concerns were raised by the World Heritage Committee
with regard to the damaging effects of high-rise buildings and modern architectural
design solutions that are considered incompatible with the historic fabric and context
of the World Heritage cities. Often intense and controversial debates surrounded the
cases of Vienna in Austria, St Petersburg in the Russian Federation, London and
Liverpool in the UK, Macau in China and George Town in Penang, Malaysia, to name
but a few, while the insertion of a new infrastructure element that was in conflict with
the property’s OUV resulted in the delisting of Dresden and the Elbe Valley in
Germany in 2009 – the second site being delisted, but the first involving a World
Heritage city, in the nearly 40 year history of the World Heritage Convention. The first
was the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, a natural site in Oman, which was delisted in 2007 World Heritage
due to a 90 percent reduction in the area under protection to facilitate oil prospecting cities
and drilling.
Next to the management challenges posed by urban development and management
contemporary architecture, over the last three decades and in tandem with the
explosive growth of tourism, World Heritage cities have become the icons of visitor
destinations. As the tourism industry expands, often the social and physical fabric of 281
these cities becomes subject to enormous market pressures, leading to physical
alterations or distortions, with incompatible building forms and styles, improper
infrastructures, and an exclusion of the weaker and unorganized parts of the local
population. Examples of the disruptive impact of mass tourism are cities like Venice in
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Italy, Marrakesh in Morocco, and Lijiang in China. By that same token, tourism can be
a major economic resource enabling local authorities to contribute to the city’s
conservation and management, as can be seen in places such as Dubrovnik in Croatia,
Quebec in Canada, or Paris in France. The issue of a balanced and harmonious
integration of tourism development and traditional life remains a major challenge in
World Heritage cities management.

World Heritage cities and their management practices

To preserve World Heritage properties and their OUV, the establishment of an
effective management system is required under the World Heritage Convention, as set
out in articles 108 to 118 of the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO, 2008). Common
elements of an effective management system should include, but are not limited to, a
thorough understanding of the property by all stakeholders; a cycle of planning,
implementation, monitoring, evaluation and feedback; the involvement of partners and
stakeholders; the allocation of necessary resources; capacity building; and an
accountable, transparent description of how the management system functions, put
down in a commonly agreed management plan.
A management plan is intended to guide the day-to-day decision-making process
with regards to management of the World Heritage property, while a conservation plan
sets out the planning and design of the interventions needed for the conservation of the
individual monuments and the historic fabric of the city. However, as Gustavo Araoz
has remarked, management plans are not expected to propose processes for meeting
the socio-economic needs of community development, only for conservation. The social
and economic conditions of the population in and around World Heritage sites are not a
prioritary element in the content of nomination dossiers, nor in the monitoring process
that follows inscription (Araoz, 2008). This is an important lacuna that needs to be
addressed in the near future. Further requirements include that a core zone be
identified, with clear guidelines for its conservation and development, and that a buffer
zone be established around the core zone in order to prevent improper development in
the vicinity, which may adversely have impact on the site’s integrity.
The management and conservation principles for World Heritage cities are
embodied in the main documents pertaining to cultural heritage conservation, such as
the ICOMOS (1964) Venice Charter, the UNESCO (1976) Recommendation concerning
the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas (Nairobi Recommendation),
the ICOMOS (1987) Charter on the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas
(Washington Charter) and the 1998 ICCROM revised Management Guidelines for
F World Cultural Heritage Sites. While these documents have provided general guidance
29,7/8 and established best practices over the last decades, World Heritage cities are
increasingly threatened by urbanization processes, demolition and renewal
programmes, modern constructions that do not respect the traditional fabric, and
tall building policies that affect the integrity of the historic urban landscape. In the past
decade, the World Heritage Committee has discussed several critical cases, some of
282 which were pointed out above, and it has recently requested the development of new
tools to better cope with these challenges (UNESCO, 2009).
Following the series of debates on the conservation of the historic urban landscape
that were held at the World Heritage Committee since its 29th session, in Durban in
July 2005, and at the General Assembly of States Parties at its 15th session, at
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UNESCO in October 2005, which recommended that the General Conference should
adopt a new Recommendation to complement and update the existing ones of the
conservation of Historic Urban Landscape, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre initiated
a process aimed at updating the 1976 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the
Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas. This process, taking up six
years already, is nearing its completion with the aim of providing the General
Conference of UNESCO with a Final Draft text for a new UNESCO Recommendation on
the Historic Urban Landscape (provisional title) for adoption at its 35th session in
October 2011.
The Historic Urban Landscape is the urban area understood as a historic
layering of cultural and natural values, extending beyond the notion of “historic
centre” or “ensemble” to include the broader urban context and its geographical
setting. This wider context includes the site’s topography, geomorphology and
natural features; its built environment, both historic and contemporary; its
infrastructures above and below ground; its open spaces and gardens; its land use
patterns and spatial organization; its visual relationships; and all other elements of
the urban structure. It also includes social and cultural practices and values,
economic processes, and the intangible dimensions of heritage as related to diversity
and identity. The historic urban landscape approach, specifically developed for
dynamic, living historic cities but basically applicable to all cultural properties, aims
at preserving the quality of the human environment and enhancing the productivity
of urban spaces. It integrates the goals of urban heritage conservation with the
goals of social and economic development. It is rooted in a balanced and sustainable
relationship between the built and natural environment. This approach further
considers cultural creativity as a key asset for human, social and economic
development and provides tools to manage physical and social transformation and
to promote harmonious integration of contemporary interventions. When historic
cities are viewed as socio-economic assets, all countries of the world are richly
endowed with resources.

The case studies

The articles included in this special issue have been selected due to their relevance and
varied methodological approaches when surveying the management practices being
implemented in World Heritage cities and in what way or with what means these
practices and impact can be understood and dealt with. These five case studies are
located in three distinct geo-cultural regions of world as recognized by UNESCO:
(1) Asia and the Pacific: China; World Heritage
(2) Europe and North America: Salamanca in Spain, and Regensburg in Germany; cities
and management
(3) Latin America and the Caribbean: Havana in Cuba, and Ouro Preto in Brazil.

The articles on Regensburg (Germany) and Havana (Cuba) have been written by
facilities managers, working in the field and dealing with the implementation of 283
management practices on a daily basis. The article on China’s World Heritage was
written by scholars with a wide ranging experience in the field, applying theoretical
concepts to the practice of cultural heritage conservation. Instead, students have
written the articles on Salamanca (Spain) and Ouro Preto (Brazil). Assisted by their
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professors, they choose to contribute with the results of their MSc theses to the field of
World Heritage cities management.
The article on Regensburg (Germany) outlines the strategies, policies and network
of stakeholders used in the integral World Heritage management system specifically
set up by the local and national governments to handle all World Heritage-related
issues concerning the property “Old town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof” (2006),
Germany. According to the authors, such management system has proven to work
very successfully, managing to raise public awareness, optimizing resources (time,
manpower, etc), as well as facilitating agreements. However, they have signaled a need
of support tools to cope with the multidisciplinary nature and complexity of World
Heritage management, as well as the creation of networks where facilities managers
could learn from each other’s experiences.
Instead, the article on Havana (Cuba) provides a more historic overview on the
management strategies implemented at the World Heritage property “Old Havana and
its fortifications” (1982) while focusing at the Plaza Vieja. As in the article of
Regensburg, the author also demonstrates the benefits of an independent management
institution to plan, develop, manage and monitor the World Heritage-designated
historic core of the city. In fact, the author reinforces the importance of a long term
management strategy and the contribution of debate and public participation to the
success of an intervention. Last, it also evidences that the maintenance of residential
facilities within the historic centre, despite tourism pressures, ensures the continuity of
traditions and lifestyles and contributes to its protection.
The article on the World Heritage sites in China does not focus specifically on one
case study, or exclusively on World Heritage cities; but provides a brief overview of the
results of an academic research undertaken with several case studies. It provides a
more economical perspective on the impact of the inscription of sites in China on the
World Heritage List. The authors emphasize the strong impact of the World Heritage
status on the surveyed properties and alert for World Heritage cities such as Lijiang,
Tulou and Pingyao which accordingly, require a broader heritage protection system.
As in Regensburg and Havana, the participatory management approach is
emphasized. Also, the authors verified that local governments, each on their own
way, were struggling to conform to the international standard and to keep the local
characteristics in everyday practice; for which they recommend specific training and
effective communication.
The article on Salamanca reports the state of conservation of the World Heritage
property “Old City of Salamanca” (1988), mainly as reflected in the official documents
F and respective decisions. It sustains with evidences that there are more properties
29,7/8 being threatened by development than the ones on the List of World Heritage in
Danger. Moreover, it exemplifies the dangers a World Heritage property can be
exposed to, particularly to the negative impact of new developments, when there are
already evidences that the policies and management practices are considered deficient
before nomination and the property still gets inscribed on the World Heritage List. To
284 prevent delays implementing UNESCO’s suggestions, as noticed in this case, the
authors argue the implementation of a strict deadline for legal purposes, which
noncompliance could result in delisting rather than the perpetual inclusion on the
Danger List.
Last, with a much more urban planning perspective, the article focuses on the
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morphological evolution of Ouro Preto – Brazil and the respective relation to the
management strategies being implemented throughout the last centuries, before and
after becoming the World Heritage property “Historic town of Ouro Preto” (1980). The
authors also alerted for the fact that the current policies do promote the city’s growth,
but neglect its impact on the urban and surrounding landscape of Ouro Preto.
Furthermore, they sustain that the public policies are still much more single
building-based and are contributing to an environmental damage and the loss of the
city’s character.

World Heritage cities are among the most abundant and diverse manifestations of our
common cultural heritage. When considering their sheer abundance, worldwide
distribution and stunning diversity, their properties of outstanding universal value can
be regarded as the apex of humankind’s built cultural expressions.
World Heritage properties comprise a key resource for the enhancement of the
livability of their urban areas and for sustaining productivity in a changing global
environment. The case studies presented evidence the importance of having the World
Heritage properties properly managed, their production and consumption potential,
which in turn can provide many opportunities for social and economic development,
both within the World Heritage city as also for their wider geographical setting.
However, the case studies also made clear that there is still a gap between theory
and practice of cultural heritage management in World Heritage cities. Not only do
these practices differ considerably in various parts of the world, they also vary within
the same geo-cultural regions. At a time in which the role of culture and heritage in
processes of sustainable development is gaining more ground, this special issue can be
regarded as the first of many fruitful contributions to enhance conservation and
management of cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

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reduction”, paper presented at the International Symposium World Heritage and Public
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Monuments and Sites, available at: (accessed
3 February 2011).
ICOMOS (1987), Charter on the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (Washington World Heritage
Charter), Paris, available at:
(accessed 3 February 2011). cities
Pereira Roders, A.R. (2010), “Revealing the World Heritage cities and their varied natures”, management
Heritage and Sustainable Development, Vol. 1, Greenlines Institute for the Sustainable
Development, Barcelos, pp. 245-53.
Roders, A.R. (2007), Re-architecture: Lifespan Rehabilitation of Built Heritage, Eindhoven 285
University of Technology, Eindhoven.
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heritage”, UNESCO, Paris, available at: (accessed
2 February 2011).
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UNESCO (1976), “Recommendation concerning the safeguarding and contemporary role of

historic areas (Nairobi Recommendation)”, UNESCO, available at:
unesco/areas76.html (accessed 3 February 2011).
UNESCO (1998) in von Droste, B., Rossler, M. and Titchen, S. (Eds), Linking Nature and Culture,
Report of the Global Strategy Natural and Cultural Heritage Expert Meeting in Amsterdam,
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UNESCO (2008), “Operational guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage
Convention”, UNESCO, Paris, available at:
pdf (accessed 2 February 2011).
UNESCO (2009), “Decision 33 COM 7.1 (9)”, Report of Decisions (adopted by the World Heritage
Committee at its 33nd Session), UNESCO, Paris, p. 10, available at:
en/sessions/33COM (accessed 3 February 2011).
UNESCO (2010), “Managing historic cities”, in van Oers, R. and Haraguchi, S. (Eds), World
Heritage Papers, No. 27, UNESCO, Paris, September.
Van Oers, R. (2006), “Preventing the goose with the golden eggs from catching bird flu –
UNESCO’s efforts in safeguarding the historic urban landscape”, Cities between
Integration and Disintegration: Opportunities and Challenges, ISoCaRP Review 02, Sitges.

Further reading
Feilden, B.M. and Jokilehto, J. (1998), Management Guidelines for World Cultural Heritage Sites,
2nd ed., ICCROM, Rome.
Pereira Roders, A.R. (2009), “OUV, WH cities and sustainability: surveying the relationship
between outstanding universal value (OUV) assessment practices and the sustainable
development of World Heritage (WH) cities”, research program, Working Paper 5,
Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven.

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