Universal values | The serial property
The Dolomites are a serial property in that they are configured as a single unit, even if it is diverse and complex, both from the geographical/landscape and geological/geomorphological points of view. The different Dolomite systems consist of an exceptional set of geological and landscape features that are extraordinarily representative and benefit from high levels of protection. They are linked together by a rich network of genetic and aesthetic relationships.
The pre-existence of clear obligations for protection is one of UNESCO’s requirements for listing as a World Heritage Site and this is why it was not possible to list some mountain ranges, such as the Sella or Sassolungo massifs, even if they are representative of Dolomite geology and landscape.
The nine Dolomite systems making up this extraordinary fossil archipelago are located in five Italian provinces, Belluno, Bolzano, Pordenone, Trento and Udine. This is an area of some 142,000 hectares in which four different languages, Italian, German, Ladin and Friulian, are spoken and officially recognised. The provinces have a composite institutional and administrative set-up because of their diversity in the context of European history.
All the properties in the World Heritage List have to satisfy the condition of integrity. Integrity is the extent to which the natural property and its qualities are unitary and intact.
“The nine component parts that make up the property include all areas that are essential for maintaining the beauty of the property and all or most of the key interrelated and interdependent earth science elements in their natural relationships. The property comprises parts of a national park, several provincial nature parks and Natura 2000 sites, and a natural monument. Buffer zones have been defined for each component part to help to protect it from threats from outside its boundaries. The natural landscapes and processes that are essential to maintaining the property’s values and integrity are in a good state of conservation and largely unaffected by development”.
(UNESCO, Declaration of outstanding universal value, Integrity)
For more information about the Dolomites candidature for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, see the website “Nomination of the Dolomites for inscription on the World Natural Heritage List UNESCO” (with an English version).
What it means to be listed as a World Heritage Site
Being listed as a World Heritage Site means being recognised as having “outstanding universal value”. Such a site is outstanding for its representation of the cultural and natural riches of our planet, to the extent that it is of value not only for the place in which it is located, but for the whole of humanity. Properties listed as World Heritage Sites are selected as the world’s best witnesses to the cultural and natural legacy to be handed down to future generations. This was the purpose of the 1972 UNESCO convention for the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage that today brings together 191 nations in this common commitment. The prestige gained by countries with world-heritage listed properties acts as a catalyst for strengthening the sense of responsibility towards the sites they have in their custody. Listed properties are required to have a management strategy setting out precise conservation measures and control mechanisms, whose effectiveness is monitored by means of three-yearly inspection reports.
Why listing the Dolomites as a World Heritage Site is so important.
Being included in the list is the result of a strict international selection process in which recognition of the uniqueness and outstanding universal value, in geological, geomorphological, aesthetic and landscapes terms, of the Dolomites goes hand-in-hand with confirmation that the values of the property are adequately represented and protected.
Listing means that the administrators of such properties bear responsibility for and have to show a commitment to guaranteeing protection of these universal values over time. This involves acknowledging that they are not dealing merely with their own local territory, but with the whole world, thus requiring a wider, more global mind-set. This in turn provides the stimulus for confronting the cultural, landscape and geological heritage issues surrounding these mountains with an open mind and a readiness to discuss them and for ensuring that economic development and tourism are at all times sustainable.