Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has been elected to the Board of Directors as a Vice President of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC). He is the first U.S. Mayor to ever serve on the board, which includes eight mayors from World Heritage Cities across the globe.
“Philadelphia has a long history as an international city, and our diversity is a key element of our identity. We are living in an increasingly global society, so it is critical that we continue to strengthen our relationships around the world. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent our city on the international stage and look forward to the increased opportunities this designation will bring for Philadelphia," says Kenney.
Among other firsts for our city, in 2015, Philadelphia joined the OWHC and became America’s first World Heritage City. The successful application, spearheaded by Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), allowed Philadelphia to join an extensive international community. Membership in the OWHC has connected Philadelphia to a network of over 300 cities around the world and has provided access to a collective intelligence regarding the urban management of UNESCO World Heritage Cities.
The OWHC recently held their 15th World Congress in Krakow, Poland, which brought together city leadership and heritage professionals from across the globe, including our own delegation from Philadelphia:
- Sheila Hess, City Representative, City of Philadelphia
- Margaret Hughes, First Deputy City Representative, City of Philadelphia
- Cindy MacLeod, Superintendent, Independence National Historical Park
- Danielle DiLeo Kim, architect and urban designer, USA250
- Robert J. McNeill, Board Chair, Global Philadelphia Association; Greater Philadelphia Managing Partner, Deloitte
- John F. Smith, III, past Board President, Global Philadelphia Association
- Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director, Global Philadelphia Association
- Melissa Stevens, cultural anthropologist, Global Philadelphia Association
Given the honor of speaking at the first session of the 2019 Congress, Philadelphia’s delegation addressed the theme of “Communicating Heritage.” Our city’s representatives used the opportunity to share their expertise, discussing Philadelphia’s efforts to use inclusive methods of communication to build World Heritage awareness.
Zabeth Teelucksingh was the first of our delegates to speak and expounded on GPA's work to bring together the city’s public and private sectors. GPA itself exists at the crossroads of government, business, and the arts and uses its connections to foster greater interactivity among the many organizations and people who are engaged in one form or another of international activity within the Greater Philadelphia Region.
Cynthia MacLeod discussed lingual inclusivity and specifically highlighted the Park Service’s work to make Independence Hall and Independence Park more accessible. In particular, the National Park Service has increased the availability of historical vignettes and tours in multiple languages. A site of international importance and popularity, Philadelphia Business Journal reports that Independence National Historic Park was the city’s most popular tourist attraction with more than 4.5 million visitors in 2018 alone.
Sheila Hess was the final member of Philadelphia’s delegation to speak. She described Philadelphia’s legacy as a welcoming city, speaking to the history of celebrating the cultures and heritages of its international populations. As proof of the city’s commitment to this cause, she cited a recent vote in which Philadelphians approved of the measure to make the Office of Immigrant Affairs a permanent fixture within the city’s government.
She also referenced the Philadelphia Honors Diversity Flag Raising Program, which enables different immigrant groups to celebrate their heritage by flying their respective national flag above City Hall. The flag raising ceremonies serve as a testament to the strength of Philadelphia’s relationship with its immigrant communities, as well as a sign of its commitment to preserve their heritage.
Click the button below to learn more about the OWHC and for the full listing of World Heritage cities across the globe.