O.U.V. – ICOMOS Canada Offers Assistance

From Local to Universal : Understanding the Meaning of Outstanding Universal Value

The recognition by the international community that a property is worthy of being inscribed on the World Heritage List is fundamentally dependent on demonstrating that it has outstanding universal value or OUV. From there, the management, the state of conservation, and the governance can be developed with a clear focus since the objective of the World Heritage Convention is to protect and conserve this OUV.

What does OUV mean? How is it defined? What are the challenges of articulating a convincing OUV? Why is it different from national, provincial, municipal or other forms of definition of significance? Whether considering a submission to Canada’s Tentative List or preparing a World Heritage nomination, ICOMOS Canada offers a personalized discussion that will provide the context and general direction to translate local significance into potential OUV. Some of the points discussed include:

• The definition of OUV, integrity and authenticity;
• General considerations for stakeholder relations;
• The importance of management; and,
• Highlights of the World Heritage nomination process.

ICOMOS is the only global non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. Since 1972, it is designated as one of the three advisory bodies to UNESCO on world heritage matters, focusing on cultural heritage. The Canadian national committee (ICOMOS Canada) supports the international work through the delivery of expertise. Since 1975, Canadians have had a leadership role in influencing international theory and practice. They have participated in site missions, emergency response initiatives, recovery projects, and evaluation of World Heritage nominations.

The following ICOMOS Canada experts have all directly contributed to the work of ICOMOS on World Heritage. They have extensive experience working with the concepts of the World Heritage Convention, especially OUV, and will provide expert insight into their interpretation.


Prof. Lynne DiStefano is a founder and the second Director (2003-2005) of the Architectural Conservation Programmes (ACP) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).  She was previously an Associate Professor at Brescia College, Western University (Ontario, Canada), as well as a Chief Curator at Museum London (Ontario, Canada).  She has been extensively involved with UNESCO’s efforts in heritage conservation.  Since 2006, Lynne has been appointed an Expert and Technical Evaluator by ICOMOS for a number of nominated World Heritage Sites in China, Japan and South Korea, as well as an Expert for several reactive monitoring missions in China, Laos and the Philippines.


Prof. Mathieu Dormaels is a professor in the urban and tourism studies department at the University of Quebec in Montreal. His teaching and research focus on urban heritage, heritagization processes, cultural landscapes, and especially UNESCO World Heritage. He is also member of ICOMOS Canada and of the Canadian commission for UNESCO. Mathieu has reviewed the condition and provided advice on pressures to World Heritage Sites. He wrote several articles on World Heritage, Heritage management and tourism, and gave more than 30 conferences in Europe and the Americas.


Mr. Fergus Maclaren is the Canadian National Expert representative on the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee. He was the Director of the UN-funded International Year of Ecotourism program, and has taught on sustainable tourism at McGill University, as well as lecturing on tourism at universities in Canada, the United States and Asia. He has developed events related to visitor management and defining spirit of place at tentative and nominated Indigenous World Heritage sites, as well as working and presenting on tourism-related projects at World Heritage sites in North America and Asia.


Dr. Jim Molnar is a World Heritage Advisor for ICOMOS International. He provides evaluations of nomination dossiers for properties that have been nominated for inscription on the World Heritage list. Jim has also edited and contributed to Canada’s nominations for Grand-Pré, Red Bay and other sites on Canada’s Tentative List.


Dr. Nancy Pollock-Ellwand is the Dean and Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary. Nancy is also a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Landscape Architecture. Her professional work and research has focused on cultural landscape history, interpretation and protection. She now serves at an international level as the Vice President, North America for the ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL). Currently, Nancy is busy with World Heritage Site nomination reviews which include field missions to such far‐flung places as the Middle East, Europe, and South East Asia. The Canadian landscape however, still remains her touchstone with its diversity and beauty.


Dr. Christophe Rivet has been actively involved in World Heritage since 1997 both at ICOMOS and in Canada. He has held various responsibilities at ICOMOS including Secretary of the International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM), Vice President for Scientific Committees at ICOMOS Canada, and more recently President of ICOMOS Canada. For ICOMOS, he has performed desk reviews of nomination proposals, reviews of national Tentative Lists, technical evaluation missions, and reviews of Statements of OUV. Christophe has led the nomination of the Landscape of Grand Pré WHS and has provided advice to nominations in Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Belgium.


The discussion offered by ICOMOS Canada is free and includes a 2 hour exchange by videoconference or by phone with the experts. When possible, the experts may be able to meet in person. The first conversations will be available starting in November 2016.

 Limitations and disclaimer:

  • The experts will not offer advice or emit opinions on the validity of a particular project.
  • Some of the experts are involved in projects that are vying for World Heritage status. As such, care will be taken to match experts with projects to avoid perceived conflicts of interest.
  • ICOMOS Canada is an impartial non governmental organization with a role in the evaluation and condition monitoring of sites. We take that responsibility seriously and as such we will not provide advice, review a proposal, or endorse a project in a way that might affect the perception of impartiality.

You can download a PDF version of this text by clicking here.

For more information and to register, please contact the Secretariat at secretariat@canada.icomos.org

NCCL – The National Conversation on Cultural Landscape

The National Conversation on Cultural Landscape is an ICOMOS Canada initiative to foster a Canadian conversation on cultural landscapes. Its purpose is to ensure that our work as heritage professionals ultimately contributes to improving the quality of life for all the communities that we are a part of.

  • To articulate a Canadian perspective on cultural landscape to promote integration of currently disparate practices in planning, development and environmental, social and cultural sustainability;
  • To articulate the roles of the heritage professional in the new heritage paradigm;
  • To create a Canadian network on cultural landscape that promotes the ongoing relevance of heritage; shared learning; and innovation in practice.


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