Heritage and development

About Sylvio S. Mutal

Photo by Lois Jensen, UNDP New York

Sylvio Mutal has had a challenging, ever-enriching career spanning more than 40 years as Practitioner and Executive Manager of International Development Cooperation.

Born in Istanbul, after an education in his home-city, he continued with further studies in Leiden and Santiago de Chile, with an active role in international student/youth organizations.

Following a six-month internship at the UN Latin American Center of Community Development in Patzcuaro Mexico, he was recruited by the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation in The Hague with field assignments through 1968. It is in 1969 that he joined the United Nations in New York (Ecosoc – Desa) as Interregional Adviser on youth and social policies and programs.

He served almost 25 years with the United Nations Development Program on site assignments in various countries in the South, and as the CEO/CTA of a Regional UNDP UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Development Project in Latin America and the Caribbean through 1995.

He is currently, after formal retirement, a Senior International Consultant on World Historic Cities'' Development/Conservation/Management Programs.

It is to be noted that Mutal’s direct association with heritage, monuments and sites, museums, conservation, and historical cities, started at a time in the mid 70''s when multilateral donor agencies were becoming incipiently aware of the cultural dimension of development. It is then that he was seconded by UNDP to UNESCO as founder and CTA of a major UNDP-funded Heritage Project in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Regional Project in Latin America and the Caribbean with headquarters at UNDP-Lima, evolved to be a worldwide enterprise on Urban Cultural Environmental Heritage under his leadership with a lifespan of 20 years. During that time he also undertook various project design and evaluation missions of Cultural Development Projects, particularly in Africa.

Mutal, in collaboration with professionals and institutions of all walks of life, conducted multidisciplinary pre-investment programs and feasibility studies of countless heritage projects across the world. These were conducted in cooperation with the international banking community; the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, as well public and/or private national and international donor agencies.

Mutal’s advocacy of the economic potential and social dimensions of built heritage -particularly in Historical Cities - has been of paramount importance for innovative approaches to Heritage Conservation and Development. It is to be noted that Mutal has been a pioneer in establishing systematic monitoring and evaluation schemes for World Cultural Heritage Sites – particularly Historic Cities.

By applying to heritage programs, relevant criteria of management, accountability, adequate delivery, cost-effectiveness, it has been possible to upgrade and connect those to 'Financial/Economic' and particularly 'Social Cohesion' agendas of International Governmental Organizations and NGOs at all levels.

Numerous field reports, features on Social Development, technical cooperation schemes for capacity building-development, publications on Cultural and Urban Heritage and Development, Museums, Archeology, and Cultural Communication were brought into fruition over the years.

In 2005 Mutal has completed a two volume book on 20 World Heritage Cities and their future. Over the past years he has had an extensive lecture schedule to share practical knowledge and experience with younger generations.

Mutal’s cultural background and worldwide exposures have enabled him to work in different geographical settings. As a world citizen, he works out of Amsterdam and Salvador Bahia-Brazil.