SESSION 01: Inaugural Session – OurWorldHeritage and Sustainability

The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is an important international treaty that has for almost 50 years played a major role in expanding heritage legislation worldwide and identifying and promoting the protection of a growing list of the World’s most unique sites – both cultural and natural. Today, however, this instrument is becoming a victim of its own success. OurWorldHeritage seeks to renew the original spirit and mission of the World Heritage Convention, by engaging citizens, civil society groups and professional and academic organizations.

The OurWorldHeritage Sustainability Team, with the motto ““Our Sustainable Heritage: World Heritage conservation as a more sustainable form of development”, has organized an intensive month of debate on Sustainability and Heritage, illustrating the challenges and solutions for integrating heritage and sustainable development, to explore the key concepts of sustainability in World Heritage: People, Planet, Prosperity, and Peace. We will explore how development processes can be reconfigured to reflect the contribution of heritage conservation, in a more sustainable form of development grounded in Outstanding Universal Value, managed with transparency, dialogue and understanding.

This month-long debate features events addressing the themes of heritage interpretation, landscape, Indegenous heritage, heritage and climate change, heritage as social capital and participation, alternative economic and governance models, and heritage and youth, as well as a wide selection of case studies to provide insights and lessons from practice. The debates will lead up to a major global event and conference on the future of the world’s heritage in April 2022, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. 

The inaugural session brings together prominent experts active in the field of World Heritage and sustainable development, cutting across professional backgrounds to set the scene for a discussion on how World Heritage can be used as a medium to achieve our transformation into more locally empowered, just and resilient societies. The session will frame discussions around the mission of OWH debates and the drafting and implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Development Policy.


Ege Yildirim and Jana Das Chaudhuri (Members of OWH Sustainability #2021debate)


Welcome and Introduction to the Thematic Debate Month
– Ege Yildirim

UNESCO and C2C Perspectives: 
– Jyoti Hosagrahar
– Souayibou Varissou

Background of OWH’s emergence: 
– Francesco Bandarin

Message and Approach of the OWH-Sustainability Team: 
– Ruben Pesci
– Pamela Duran

Academic Expert Perspectives: 
– Sophia Labadi
– Peter Larsen

Q&A and discussion


Ege Yildirim, MODERATOR, Co-ordinator OWH Sustainability Debate 2021 & Member of the OWH Advisory Committee. Dr. Ege Yildirim is an urban planner and heritage conservation specialist with over 20 years of experience working in Turkey and internationally. Her work focuses on heritage policy and governance; UNESCO World Heritage; and sustainable development. She Based in Istanbul since 2013, she is an independent consultant and scholar. Her previous work includes positions of conservation planner at KA-BA Architecture Ltd, Ankara (2000-06); conservation coordinator at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (2008-12); consultant and Site Manager of the Historic Guild Town of Mudurnu (2014-2020); and Key Expert in the EU-Turkey Anatolian Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Institute project, Gaziantep (2019). Ege was a Fulbright Scholar at Pratt Institute, New York (2006-07) and a J.M. Kaplan Fellow at Koç University, Istanbul (2013). Most recently, she has served as the ICOMOS Focal Point for the UN SDGs (2016-2020). Just a couple of days back she has been named #Face of Leadership by Salzburg Global Fellowship. 

Jyoti Hosagrahar, SPEAKER. Jyoti Hosagrahar is Deputy Director for the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO. Among other responsibilities, she leads the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation, the World Heritage Cities Programme, World Heritage and Sustainable Development, the Earthen Architecture Programme, as well as the Culture|2030 Indicators for measuring Culture in the 2030 Agenda across all the Culture Conventions and Recommendations. From May 2016-November 2018, she served as Director of the Division for Creativity at UNESCO. Prior to joining UNESCO, she was a professor and Director of the SUI Lab at GSAPP, Columbia University, New York, 2005-2016; UNESCO Chair in Culture, Habitat, and Sustainable Development at Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore, India where she was also Chair of the Ph.D. program, 2012-2016; and Founder-Director of Sustainable Urbanism International (SUI), an NGO in Bangalore, India, 2003-2016. She has a Ph.D in Architecture and Urbanism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Francesco Bandarin, SPEAKER, Member of the OWH Advisory Committee. Francesco Bandarin is an Architect and Urban Planner, specialized in Urban Conservation. From 2000 to 2010 he was Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. From 2010 to 2018 he served as Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Culture. He holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Iuav University of Venice and a masters in city planning from the University of California, Berkeley. As Director of the World Heritage Centre, Francesco Bandarin was responsible for the implementation of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and, to that end, coordinated institutional activities relating to the inscription of sites on the World Heritage List. During his tenure as Assistant Director-General, the UNESCO Culture Sector spearheaded initiatives which helped to establish culture as a sustainability issue, in and of itself. This orientation is also found in the first UNESCO Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development (“Culture: Urban Future”), released on 18 October 2016 during the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III).

Souayibou Varissou, SPEAKER. Souaryibou Varissou is an archaeologist and heritage conservationist with more than 20 years of experience. In his home country (Benin), he served as Site Manager of the National Botanical Garden (1998-2005), as Lecturer in Archaeology and Cultural Project Management at the University of Abomey-Calavi (1997-2007) and finally as Manager of the National Cultural Development Programme (2005-2009). In 2009, he joined the African World Heritage Fund based in South Africa as a Programme Specialist before being appointed Executive Director of the organization in 2018. Mr Varissou has been involved in several community-based projects and policy development initiatives touching to sustainability aspects.

Ruben Pesci, SPEAKER, Co-Convener, OWH Sustainability Debate 2021. Recognised initiator in Latin America of thought and action with environmental criteria, he founded the CEPA Foundation in La Plata in 1974, the first environmental NGO in the Region. Doctorate in Madrid in Sustainability and Urban Regeneration, he is one of the top developers of urban projects and plans in Latin America. Forty cities (metropolises, large and small cities) were designed with his leadership. He created and developed the concept of Ambitectura (building inspired by the environment) that he has applied to countless works of architecture, urban design and development. He has received many awards and distinctions, among which include: • Illustrious citizen of La Plata (2018) • International Citizen, Cuernavaca (2017) • Illustrious graduate of the National University of La Plata (2016) • First Prize in Urban Planning, College of Architects of the Province of Buenos Aires (2008) • Second Prize “New Town of Clarendon” Competition, Jamaica, International Union of Architects (2000) • Director UNESCO / FLACAM Chair for Sustainable Development (1995 and continues) • President of FLACAM (Latin American Forum of Environmental Sciences) 1990 and continues. He has been working on La Plata and its region since 1980, especially on projects for the strategic development of the region and the consideration of La Plata as world heritage.

Pamela Durán Díaz, SPEAKER, OWH Sustainability Debate 2021 Team Member. Pamela is a Mexican architect with a PhD in Urbanism from Spain and a postdoc on Sustainable Management of Cultural Landscapes in China and Mali. She is a scientific researcher at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, where she coordinates the Doctoral and Master’s Programmes in Land Management and Geospatial Science. She is the Project Manager of ADLAND, a collaborative research project to strengthen land governance in Africa. She is a founder member of the research Ginna Kanda “International Forum for the Development of Cultural Landscapes” and a member of UNESCO Chair FLACAM. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and presenter in several international workshops, seminars and conferences in Argentina, China, Ethiopia, France, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Serbia, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and Uruguay, among others. Her research focuses on sustainable intervention strategies for the natural and built environments, where the local culture acts as a catalyst for development.

Sophia Labadi, SPEAKER, Co-ordinator, OWH Diversities and Gender Debate 2021. Sophia Labadi is Professor of Heritage at the University of Kent in the UK. She also holds a Leadership Fellowship (2019-2021) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK. Much of Professor Labadi’s research focuses on how heritage sites and museums can address some of the most pressing global challenges, including social justice, gender equality or sustainable development. Her research is nourished by her experiences as consultant for international organisations and governments. Professor Labadi is the author of Heritage and Globalisation (co-edited with Colin Long, Routledge, 2010), UNESCO, Cultural Heritage and Outstanding Universal Value (AltaMira Press, 2012); Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability (co-edited with Bill Logan, Routledge 2015) and The Cultural Turn in International Aid (Routledge, 2019).

Dr. Peter Bille Larsen, SPEAKER. Peter Bille Larsen is lectures in heritage, sustainability, rights and international governance at the universities of Geneva and Zürich. He has worked extensively with international organizations, NGOs and community-based organizations to address cultural rights, heritage and rights-based approaches.Recent books include Post-frontier resource governance (Palgrave, 2015),  World Heritage and Human Rights (ed, Routledge, 2018) and World Heritage and Sustainable Development (Routledge 2018, co-edited with William Logan).

Jana Das Chaudhuri, RAPPORTEUR, OWH Sustainability Debate 2021 Team Member. Jana Das Chaudhuri is an Architect and Heritage Management Specialist. She left her position of Deputy Director at Delhi Urban Heritage Foundation, Delhi Development Authority, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India (2007-2021) to found the Institute of Heritage Research (IHR), a watch dog and a think tank for Policy Research on Urban Heritage Management that analyses, strategies and advocates people-centered approach to urban heritage management in India. Jana received the Fulbright Fellowship 2010-2011 to pursue doctoral and professional research in Planning, Historic Preservation and Sustainability in the US. She is Member Council of Architecture (India), UNESCO World Heritage Institute of Training and Research – Asia Pacific (Shanghai) and ICOMOS (India) where she is part of its Working Group on Climate Change and Heritage.