The Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture has just released the report of a survey conducted with the support of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, in order to assess the impact of the first 5 workshops conducted under the initiative “International Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development” (2015-2019). During this fruitful experience, the Academy convened approximately 130 professionals working for UNESCO designated sites from about 50 countries across the world and generated evident positive impact on capacities to contribute to local sustainable development, both directly and indirectly.
The International Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development is a capacity-building programme conceived and launched in 2015 by the Santagata Foundation for the Economics of Culture and UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, as part of the interdisciplinary and intersectoral programme of the latter.
The International Academy aims to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda through strengthening the capacities of managing authorities and other local practitioners working with UNESCO designations, with special focus on World Heritage properties, Biosphere Reserves, Global Geoparks, elements inscribed in the Lists for Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Creative Cities. The project was made possible thanks to the annual contribution of Italy to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe.
So far, 5 yearly international workshops have been organised since 2015, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Held primarily in Turin and the Piedmont region, with an interactive programme combining lectures, group works and meetings with stakeholders in local real-case scenarios, these workshops saw the attendance of a diverse group of participants from the European region and beyond, creating a community of professionals and incrementing their skills and understanding on how to foster sustainable development in UNESCO designated sites through the integrated management of cultural and natural resources.
In response to the disruption of the Academy’s regular activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Santagata Foundation launched an in-depth survey to evaluate the impact of the workshops held in previous years, aimed at participants and local partners involved. The outcomes of the survey were analysed and presented in a technical report, which offers evidence of the positive impact of the Academy especially in terms of knowledge advancement, networking and regional cooperation.
The Academy experience helped participants to envisage and pursue new partnership opportunities in their respective local contexts at different levels: within the governance framework of single designated sites; across different policy sectors (e.g. culture, environment, tourism, agriculture, creative economy); between different designations in multi-designated areas or in close territorial proximity; as well as between different designated sites in different countries or territorial contexts.
The responses of participants also attest to the importance of the Academy in improving advancing participants’ knowledge on UNESCO designations and related processes; enhancing their professional capacities; sharing good practices; supporting peer learning; and eventually promoting the introduction of new operational measures or policies in the concerned designated sites.
One of the key findings of the survey is that none of the selected UNESCO designated areas were immune to the heavy socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the necessity to develop appropriate responses to the crisis in the sense of sustainably leveraging cultural and natural assets for recovery. This was reflected in the capacity-building priorities that the respondents indicated for future workshops of the Academy, focusing especially on: i) how to effectively sustain economic growth while ensuring social and environmental sustainability; ii) increasing the preparedness, resilience, and recovery of the sites in face of emergencies; iii) supporting the construction of a strategic, integrated, and participatory management framework with a view to achieving middle and long-term objectives.
On this basis, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, together with Fondazione Santagata are working to prepare the 6th workshop of the Academy, which is tentatively scheduled in October 2021 and will focus on the nexus between heritage and the creative economy in UNESCO designated sites, in the wake of the proclamation of 2021 as International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. A summary of the survey report is available here: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000376137