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Introducing heritage labels and city networks

In week one, we saw that cultural diversity generates both challenges and opportunities for cities. This week, we will look at how cities can share and diffuse successful strategies to foster cultural diversity.

We will look successively at two specific instruments that can be used for such transnational cooperation: labels and networks. Let us start by defining what we mean by these terms and how they relate to the governance of cities’ heritage.

Labels are widely used tool in heritage policies. They consist of designating a place (a city, a region, a building) to affirm its distinctiveness, its identity, and its values. Labels are tools of governance used at the national and international levels. They are intended to trigger local cooperation without imposing a rigid model. They are also tools of “place branding” and, as such, take part in the strategies aimed at using heritage to turn cities into tourist destinations. This week we will talk about UNESCO’s World Heritage List, but also one of its lesser-known programs, the World Book Capital City and ponder how cities can use such labels to foster cultural diversity.

In the second part of the week, we will be looking at urban networks, notably networks of cooperation among cities. The concept of network is quite flexible and can refer to a wide variety of situations:

  • They can be developed directly by municipalities but also by various city stakeholders such as non-profit organizations, companies, universities, or cultural institutions.

  • They can cover a broad spectrum of urban policy issues such as developing trade or tourism within the network, providing better health services, organising cultural festivals or promoting exchanges of students, artists or professionals among cities.

  • They can have different levels of institutionalisation: some networks have the status of association and may be running for decades, while others are projects with a limited timeframe of a few years.

  • Some networks may concentrate on a specific policy area such as cultural exchange by organising trips and festivals, while others may have a broader set of activities that includes setting up specific projects (e.g. on environment-friendly transport or business innovation) within the larger network.

Such networks reflect cities’ aspirations to be relatively autonomous political actors in the international field. Here we will look specifically at how such networks engage in projects focusing on cultural diversity.

This week we will explore various examples of labels and networks and see how cities in different parts of the world use them to foster cultural diversity.

Share your experience:

Can you name a label or a network for cultural heritage that you have already heard of?

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This article is from the free online course:

Cultural Diversity and the City

European University Institute (EUI)

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