Dolomites, Europe

There are many opportunities to compare UNESCO sites at both European and global level. The Dolomites World Heritage Site and those working to promote and protect them can and should listen to the experiences of others. However, we often find in our dealings with other UNESCO Sites that we are able to pass on something of what we’ve learnt in over ten years of Heritage management. This was demonstrated in our recent encounters in Switzerland and Germany, and a visit to Cortina by a delegation from the French Site of Chaîne des Puys.


Swiss Alps: participation is strategic

“Coming together to protect and experience our World Heritage in a sustainable way”: this was the objective of the working group set up by the Department of Nature, Landscape and Land Development of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, and IDM South Tyrol, when they proposed a study trip to the “Jungfrau-Aletsch Swiss Alps” by representatives of South Tyrolean tourist associations in the UNESCO World Heritage area. Participants in the visit included: representatives of IDM and of the Department of Nature, Landscape and Regional Development, the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, various technical experts and representatives of the Municipalities, hoteliers, and presidents and directors of tourist associations throughout the South Tyrol Dolomites. Some important operational ideas came out of the meeting. For example, in the “Jungfrau-Aletsch Swiss Alps”, the various actors have built a close connection between heritage conservation and sustainable economic development. They have designed proposals that not only appeal to tourists but also make them more aware, and which empower local residents and increase their sense of identity by offering them such options as becoming World Heritage ambassadors.

As Wolfgang Töchterle, director of IDM’s Marketing department, explained: “It is extremely important to involve as many people as possible who live, work or spend their holidays in our World Heritage Sites. The only way to reinvigorate our heritage is by joining forces and developing sustainable projects. We focus on sustainability because being a World Heritage site is not only an honour for our territory, but also a great responsibility.” Frank Weber, director of the Department of Nature, Landscape and Regional Development, shares this opinion: “The theme of collective involvement was very apparent in the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch region. We can only make the most of our territory if we work together and set ourselves a common goal.”

In Germany to answer some key questions

Another opportunity for comparing the experiences of UNESCO Sites came with a conference on the theme of “Heritage and Sustainability”, organised by the German Commission for UNESCO. The event was held in Brühl on 4 and 5 November. About 70 representatives of UNESCO Sites in Germany and Austria took part. It involved not only World Heritage Sites, but also members of the Man and the Biosphere programme, Sites of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the UNESCO Associated Schools Network – ASPnet. The three study sessions focused on social sustainability in our World Heritage community (i.e. the issues of active participation, inclusion, and the relationship between home, life, work and tourism); environmental sustainability (also in relation to climate change and engaging public opinion), and economic sustainability (i.e. the delicate relationship between promoting local development and mitigating the negative effects of tourism). The Director of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, Marcella Morandini, addressed this last issue with reference to our own territory, describing the management strategy and the innovative projects under way in a very complex and diverse Site such as the Dolomites.

Visitors from France study the example of the Dolomites

On 23 and 24 October, the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation received a visit from another World Heritage Site: the French Chaîne des Puys Site, a volcanic complex in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park. The representatives from the French Site were welcomed in Cortina d’Ampezzo and were taken to the Giau Pass and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo), where they were able to experience first hand the unique geology and scenery of the Dolomites. The Chaîne des Puys Site joined the World Heritage list in 2018 under criterion VIII, the category related to geology. The delegation wanted to learn about the process of candidacy for the Dolomites, which were selected not only for criterion VIII, but also for criterion VII in relation to landscape. The main focus of interest was the Overall Management Strategy and the organisation of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation. Professor Cesare Lasen of the Scientific Committee and scientific consultants Professor Piero Gianolla and architect Cesare Micheletti explained the special character of the Dolomites in terms of both geology and landscape. The French delegation was impressed by the large number of excellent projects the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation has carried out in recent years.