Philadelphia Delegation’s Trip to the 16th World Congress of the OWHC

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By Andrew Beers

In 1991, the first meeting of World Heritage Cities was held in Quebec, Canada. It wasn’t until 1993 that the official Organization of World Heritage Cities, or OWHC, was assembled. Since its foundation, the organization has connected over 300 cities worldwide through conferences, seminars, workshops and World Congresses that all aim to support and promote the preservation of historic cities. From Sep. 5 to Sep. 9, Global Philadelphia Association led a delegation of Philadelphia representatives to Quebec City, Quebec for the 16th World Congress of the OWHC.

“Being there for the first time was a wonderful opportunity to connect with folks around culture. We had the opportunity to talk with important leaders and decision makers,” said Netanel Portier, Director for the Mural Arts Institute. The theme for the World Congress was simple, yet paramount to the symposium’s agenda: Enhancing Livability in World Heritage Cities. Global delegations discussed topics on climate change, urban development and the future of World Heritage Cities.

One major reveal during the congress was the announcement for a “New Urban Project” for the OWHC, set to be implemented in 2024. According to the OWHC’s website, this project will make it possible to support cities in the implementation of sustainable urban policies based on the enhancement of their heritage. Global Philadelphia President Zabeth Teelucksingh noted that the key areas needed to be developed under the “New Urban Project” include transforming public spaces, enhancing residential spaces, evolving mobility in cities and adapting preexisting heritages.

On the final day, the General Assembly gathered to adopt the 2022-2024 Action Plan and the 2023 budget for OWHC. These measures included a roadmap and the draft mandate for the “New Urban Project” slated for 2024. Philadelphia’s delegation finds this roadmap to be useful for future programming in the community, but they believe the best practices towards preserving heritage stem from previously showcased programs and initiatives from other cities. 

“There are more opportunities for people in Philadelphia to learn from the OWHC and to be engaged with what they are doing in Europe,” said Margaret Hughes, Deputy City Representative of Philadelphia. Looking towards the future in 2026, delegates from Philadelphia aspire to host the OWHC World Congress meeting in Philadelphia. This year, the City’s delegation made an impact through their sheer size and knowledge of Philadelphia’s World Heritage status. Hughes noted, “Our delegation was quite big, but it seems like we were the most diverse group.” 

“At the OWHC, heritage was embraced as an organizing principle. We are anchored in history, but the heritage piece is not always a top pillar. We must pay attention to local heritage and return to that attribution of heritage,” said Michael Newmuis, Chief of Staff at Visit Philly. “It is clear that GPA, particularly Zabeth [Teelucksingh], had been cultivating the OWHC relationship before we arrived at the conference.” After the 16th World Congress of the OWHC, Global Philadelphia and delegates plan to continue their stewardship towards Philadelphia’s World heritage status.    

Philadelphia Delegation to the 16th World Congress:

Micheal Norris, Carpenters Hall 

Netanel Portier, Mural Arts Institute

Cynthia MacLeod, INHP

Michael Newmuis, Visit Philly

Rachel Ferguson, Visit Philly 

Zabeth Teelucksingh, Global Philadelphia Association

Sheila Hess, City Representative 

Margaret Hughes, Office of the City Representative


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