HIST Holds Seminar on Sustainable Development of UNESCO Designated Sites


An online seminar, organized by the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage under the Auspices of UNESCO( hereafter called“HIST”), was held in Beijing on March 16 to explore how to use cutting-edge technologies to promote sustainable development of UNESCO-designated sites. The event was held both online and offline, attracting more than 240,000 online attendees.

HAN Qunli, former Director of the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences of UNESCO, said in his welcome speech that protection and sustainable development of UNESCO-designated sites becomes a very important research theme which is strategic in the new development phase, and participating experts will discuss the theme from viewpoints of scientific methods, development concepts, and management practices. 

As for cultural heritage sites, WANG Xudong, director of the Palace Museum in Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City, introduced their efforts to conserve the 600-year-old Forbidden City and to ensure its sustainable development with the guideline of preventive conservation.

As for the unmovable cultural relics, QIAO Yunfei, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, said that it is urgently needed to prevent unmovable cultural relics from natural disasters, and introduce new technological methods to improve disaster risk management, which will play an exemplary role in the heritage conservation.

Prof. LV Zhou from Tsinghua University held that Central Axis of Beijing ( as the core area of old Beijing city joining UNESCO cultural heritage list in 2013 has contributed to the protection of the heritage itself. In return, the well-preserved Central Axis has greatly improved the urban landscape of the city. 

LI Erwu, an expert from the ICOMOS International Conservation Center-Xi’an, introduced the archaeological advances of the ancient Silk Road-related relics at the Khujand area of Tajikistan. 

In terms of space archaeology, two scientists from HIST,Prof. WANG Xinyuan and Prof. CHEN Fulong introduced their practices. Wang briefed the transformation from remote sensing archaeology to space archaeology. He also introduced the Yumenguan archaeological expedition in the Huanghuaying section of the Han Great Wall. Chen took Niya ruins as an example to identify how space-based observation was used for the ruins. Chen stressed the broad prospect of using remote sensing technology for observation and protection of cultural heritages with the context of related UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators. 

As for natural heritage, Prof. HAN Feng from the Tongji University introduced Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (, elaborating its outstanding universal value as a Natural World Heritage site.

CHEN Zhanshi, a researcher from the China Academy of Urban Planning & Design pointed out that natural heritage site should be accurately planned to ensure harmonious coexistence of man and nature as well as coordinated and sustainable development of heritage site of such kind. 

Prof. FU Bihong from HIST, introduced Jiuzhaigou Valley (, which was hit by a major earthquake in 2017 and how they used space-ground based technologies to monitor its post-disaster recovery.

In terms of mixed sites, Prof. DONG Wei from the Southeast University pointed out that, the multi- integration of various heritage resources, which cover natural, historical and cultural heritage, intangible and tangible heritage, historic cities, towns and villages, is the only approach to ensure sustainable development of heritage within the framework of a territorial spatial planning system. 

With regard to global geoparks, ZHANG Jianping, Vice Chair of UNESCO Global Geoparks Council, said geological, ecological, environmental, cultural, human and other factors should be considered for the sustainable development of geoparks.

Prof. LIU Yue from Beijing Institute of Technology introduced the current situation, trends and challenges of using virtual reality technology for entertainment industry. 

In the Q&A session, discussion focused on such topics as space overlay of the Wulingyuan site, the digital information of the Forbidden City, the fire prevention of ancient buildings, and using virtual reality technology for protection of cultural heritage, among others.

The seminar, focusing on promoting the sustainability of UNESCO-designated sites, marks the start of academic activities designed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of HIST.

Established in 2011, HIST is the first UNESCO Category-2 Centre dedicated to promoting, testing and demonstrating the applications of space technologies for the conservation, management and sustainable development of globally significant natural and cultural heritage, biosphere reserves and geoparks. 

The10-year-old HIST will continue to serve as a platform to safeguard the sustainable development of the UNESCO-designed sites, and especially, using space technology to help UNESCO and its member states implement the World Heritage Convention as well as achieve the UN 2030 SDGs.