Tonina looks ahead to 2022: “Let it be the year of WE”

“Managing the Dolomites World Heritage Site requires a daily affirmation of our will to work together, make difficult choices together, and move beyond our own personal interests in the name of the common good.” With this, Mario Tonina, president of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, invites us to help realise his dream for 2022. “This is the task of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation. Speaking of active conservation in the context of a World Heritage site may seem like a contradiction, but it becomes a necessity if we consider what Prof. Umberto Martini of the University of Trento expressed so well at the opening of the course for hospitality workers in the Dolomites, organised by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation and the G. Angelini Foundation: “The mountain with a tourist vocation can only retain that vocation over time if it maintains a high degree of appeal; it is the protected mountain that understands what it means to apply the concept of limitation. Tourism, however, exposes us to another dimension, that of the disputed mountain which sees the debate between two opposing positions: the recreational mountain and the protected mountain. The pandemic brought the concepts of safety and responsibility to the debate and forced us to give even more consideration to the impact of over-tourism and hotspots, raising the issue of a need for controlling and managing flows.” Clearly, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to make the “we” prevail in all decision-making bodies, keeping the beacon of active conservation as the quality that makes the Dolomites unique.”

Cooperation, the way forward

“This year, I will once again have the honour of presiding over the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, and I intend to continue, along with the entire Board of Directors, to make an upward synthesis between the various requests coming from the regions and from the many viewpoints that animate the debate on the future of the Dolomites. Cooperation is not just a duty; it is the only way we have of offering solutions from the perspective of our region; from collective properties to the first cooperative dairies, the people of the mountains have always sought collaboration as a means to continue living there. All of us who are tasked with managing a heritage spread across several provinces and regions must continue to take our inspiration from this model. Working together requires sacrifices, and sometimes delays, but it also gives us the most complete satisfaction and an awareness that the choices we make will last a long time. Of course, I am thinking of the difficult situation encountered by some hotspots suffering under the weight of mass tourism, and of the management of mobility, particularly on the Dolomites passes. But in a more general sense, I am also thinking of the protection of the most fragile and threatened ecosystems. We cannot pretend that we don’t see the effects of climate change even in the Dolomites, from the retreat of glaciers to the frequency of extreme weather events. That is why we need an ever increasing degree of regional cooperation to mitigate the effects of change and to study strategies for the inevitable adaptation to which we are already called to respond.

“We have charted the course”

President Tonina also takes a look at the work accomplished in 2021 and the many projects carried out by the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, which has the dual task of supporting local communities and their administrations and directly coordinating some cross-sector initiatives: “I will mention just a few by way of example: the launch of the Dolomites World Heritage Geotrail, a means of providing a geological interpretation of the Heritage site to promote conscious tourism; the consolidation of the network of quality producers in the agri-food sector who are true proponents of a sustainable economy anchored to the uniqueness of the Dolomite valleys; the collective work of the Network of Mountain Hut Managers, an example of cooperation that reaches across borders and will soon translate into a new communication initiative to inform users, who are becoming increasingly demanding, about what it takes to operate the mountain huts at high elevations. And we still have the Noi Dolomiti UNESCO programme which has now shared over two hundred stories of people who work and live in the Dolomites. And then, there is the extensive training sector which offered numerous qualified opportunities for in-depth study during 2021. The course has been charted; following it to the top will be the challenge for 2022.”

With my warmest wishes for Happy Holidays,
Mario Tonina

Ph. Nicolò Miana