network "Forum UNESCO University and Heritage" was established by UNESCO
together with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain, in 1996.
The initial meeting was attended by nearly 80 delegates representing 41 countries.
The second Forum held in 1997 at the University of Laval in Quebec helped to better structure this network, while the third Forum at Deakin University in Melbourne in 1998 put more stress on the development of international co-operation projects in the area of heritage, and highlighted the experiences of the Asia-Pacific region.
The fourth Forum took place at the Al Akhwayn University in Fez, Morocco, in 1999. This Forum mainly dealt with the enhancement of the operational and universal character of the network, and especially the reinforcement of a North/ South dialogue through greater participation of African universities. In the same year an international meeting of university rectors at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris strongly consolidated the international network that now comprehends 225 universities.
Forum UNESCO University and Heritage network was established following a process of reflection and mutual consultation on the part of teachers and students committed to the project. This was made in close co-operation with the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council for the Conservation and the Restoration of Monuments (ICCROM), the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and the International Union of Architects (UIA), as well as with national officials responsible for the cultural heritage. The action of this network supports and complements the actions of major NGOs in the field of heritage.
Forum UNESCO mobilizes university specialists and students on a united national and international front to investigate the threats of cultural heritage and to devise strategies and co-operative projects to preserve the cultural heritage. The network of university professionals also promotes the teaching of heritage studies and the involvement of students in heritage projects that will help in passing on the mission of preservation and protection to the next generation. The whole series of seminars, meetings and projects taking place within the framework of Forum UNESCO have been entirely financed by the universities themselves, which attests to their firm determination and commitment to cultural heritage conservation and preservation.
The dynamism of Forum UNESCO has been made visible by the international seminars mentioned above, as well as by regional seminars (such as in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Cuba, and Lund), and by several workshops (Carthagena, Colombia and Tallinn, Estonia). Furthermore, Forum UNESCO has enabled the establishment of UNESCO Chairs of Heritage at the universities of Laval and Deakin, as well as manifold activities in order to promote and create awareness concerning cultural heritage (competitions, publications, expositions, films, CD ROM).
Today, 25 joint operational and promotional projects are running at universities in different regions of the world, where the co-operation between the University of Lund (Sweden) and the University of Yildiz (Turkey) concerning the restoration of wooden houses in Istanbul, is just one successful example.