A Discussion About Cultural Heritage with Former Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova

Will Becker for GPA On Wednesday, January 31st, Global Philadelphia had the pleasure of taking part in a panel discussion featuring the former Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova and Dr. Brian Daniels, Director of Research and Programs for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the Penn Museum, which was moderated by LaShawn Jefferson, Deputy Director of Perry World House. As a part of the Perry World House’s ‘Cultural Lens’ series, Global Philadelphia Executive Director Zabeth Teelucksingh was asked to take part in the discussion to provide a perspective on how cultural heritage is represented in Philadelphia on the local level, and how the World Heritage City project plays a role into this.

The stimulating conversation began with the topic of how important culture and heritage can seem in a more globalizing world. Brian Daniels gave a very insightful story regarding the Syrian conflict and the destruction of many heritage sites that have taken place. After asking of how difficult protecting heritage sites must be, a Syrian cultural representative noted that “even in the face of conflict, cultural heritage is something worth protecting”. Irina Bokova then went on to add that indeed, with a more globalizing world, cultural heritage sites are in need of more protection than ever before, pointing to the destruction of Malian heritage sites in 2014 as a clear “watershed moment”.  Moreover, Zabeth Teelucksingh and Brian Daniels both agreed that local communities need to be completely engaged in this process, to ensure that this importance of heritage retention is long lasting and grassroots in its implementation. The former Director General followed up on this, stating that indeed “Education should be a social equalizer in all countries.”

In total, the night was full of exciting discussion and celebration of culture and heritage. Speaking afterwards about the event, Honorary Consul for Flemish in the World Daisy Van der Hoof-Mertens said “As a Philadelphian and Flanders native, it was actually Zabeth’s quote that resonated most with me. ‘Philadelphia is not only a World Heritage City but a city of World Heritages’. Everybody is able to find his place and connection with this city that is living up the true meaning of the name that William Penn so eloquently gave it “philein delphos”.

Undoubtedly, this is the story that Project World Heritage City wishes to tell. Though the city’s World Heritage City designation uniquely positions Philadelphia for international relationships, historic preservation, and increased tourism, the ultimate goal is simply making sure the many stories of one of America’s most historic and diverse cities are heard both locally, nationally, and throughout the world. This will truly inspire citizens and residents to understand the value of living in a World Heritage City.

From the discussion and questions asked, it would be fair to assume that the importance of both are only becoming more and more realized, and in the face of adversity will continue to remain.

More resources and details about Project World Heritage City can be found here:


Files & Links