The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation came into being, and continues its work, as a result of teamwork involving all the regions and stakeholders who are its advocates. This means the Scientific Committee and the regional representatives, which bring the technicians of the various Provinces and Regions together, must be consulted with regard to any new planning. Additional support from the Fondo Comuni Confinanti [Fund for Neighbouring Municipalities] will make it possible for the new plan to include the scheduling and implementation of a series of activities throughout the Dolomites World Heritage Site over the next five years.
Ph. Luciano Gaudenzio
Activities over the next five years will have to take the various aspects of vulnerability into account, including those which have been recently identified—from environmental problems, such as those deriving from the climate crisis, to social and cultural issues, to the imbalance between the depopulation and congestion of some localities, to the lack of knowledge and awareness of World Heritage values and the risk of a loss of local identity. Obviously, there is no shortage of challenges, whether due to exceptional aspects or more systemic challenges linked to the context of the mountains themselves. Mere short-sighted planning, however, would not be able to take advantage of the enormous opportunities offered by the cultural richness of the Dolomites region, its extraordinary environmental quality, the ongoing digital transformation or the very fact of UNESCO recognition.
A common course of action, respecting the differences
Long-lasting, sustainable development of local communities is the ultimate aim of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation‘s multi-year project. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to gather the requests of the individual regions and bring them together in a fair and balanced synthesis. The Foundation and the technicians of all the regions involved are working on this in order to formulate a proposal for submission to the Steering Committee.
The inclusion of the Dolomites in the World Heritage List, which recognises its exceptional universal nature, underscores the responsibility and commitment of the administrations to guarantee the values that the Heritage expresses and to promote not only the landscape and the geological heritage, but also build models for projects and practices that have social, cultural and economic development at their core.
There are three guidelines to follow. A commitment to guaranteeing the integrity of the Site, and in particular, the geological and environmental values that form the basis of the recognition, must be ensured. These values, however, must be eased into the individual communities, by means of mediation which, in recent years, has turned out to be one of the most challenging aspects of networking, as differences regarding recognition-relevant values depend on the different visions that the individual valleys have for the future. But as the inhabitants of the mountains well know, solutions are found not only at the table, but also by starting to work together—and this leads us to the third objective for the next five years, which will be the incubation of projects for conserving, communicating and promoting the World Heritage Site, to be developed in cooperation with local communities.
The next steps
Only time will tell if this shared journey and the projects implemented will ultimately transform fragility into more coherent sustainability, stronger cohesion and a more solid capacity for resilience than we see today, even if only to a small extent. The project’s stages of advancement will be monitored and evaluated every year.