UNESCO sites around the world: open online

The Dolomites and their inhabitants are now facing a gradual exit from the COVID-19 emergency. Meanwhile, a look at other UNESCO World Heritage sites shows how the long closure has produced some alternative ways of enjoying our natural and cultural heritage.

Heritage sites inaccessible for months

It’s impossible to give an accurate picture of the way that the World Heritage Sites in 167 countries have been slowly reopening, but the photo taken at the end of April shows that these months of lockdown have had a significant impact on their accessibility. As of April 27th, the situation for the 1,121 natural, cultural and mixed sites around the world was as follows: 72% (in 121 countries) were closed, 18% (in 29 countries) were partially open, and only 10% (in 17 countries) were fully open. Of course, there are many complex situations, including those in countries with federal systems of government, which have a range of different arrangements. Some countries, such as China, started to reopen earlier. UNESCO also reports that regular monitoring activities have continued, especially in the environmental sites. These help protect them from the risks associated with a lack of supervision, such as the possible failure to report a fire (read more).

Support the Heritage Sites and their related businesses

The prolonged closures have obviously had serious repercussions from an economic standpoint. This is why UNESCO launched its “ShareOurHeritage” campaign to support communities and the cultural heritage. As the UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, commented: “We must unite to share our heritage, and support artists, libraries, museums and cultural institutions during this time of COVID-19.” This intention is also true for natural heritage sites, such as the Dolomites. The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation has, therefore, been working consistently in recent weeks to promote all the UNESCO sites (both cultural and natural) through its social networks, using the hashtag “#shareourheritage”. There are many UNESCO initiatives to support cultural heritage and related businesses, at a time when culture has a particularly important social function, in helping to combat loneliness and isolation. One of these is the online exhibition of dozens of Cultural Heritage properties worldwide, created with the technical support of Google Arts & Culture.

Multi-person interview with Italian Site managers

The Italian World Heritage Association has produced an interesting video, involving parallel interviews with various Italian site managers, working in Florence, Mantua, Modena and Ravenna.

New listings still pending

The 44th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was due to take place in Fuzhou, China, from 29 June to 9 July 2020. The decision was made at the end of the 43rd session, which was held in Baku on 30 June 2019. COVID-19 has forced postponement to a later date, and so the sites that applied for inclusion on the World Heritage List are still awaiting confirmation.