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  • AutorenbildDr. Engelbert Ruoss

How to Improve the Performance in Conservation and Development of Heritage Sites


Presented by E. Ruoss at the 6th Symposium for Research in Protected Areas, November 2017, Salzburg

I have been confronted for decades by complaints by managers of natural and cultural heritage sites regarding missing commitments of public authorities, lack of personnel, stakeholder and public participation, scientific support, funding and fundraising opportunities. Recent studies in UNESCO World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves (BRs), identified as well gaps regarding the effectiveness of planning, governance and management. All the efforts and solutions are mostly insufficient to face the multiple impacts caused by climate change, intensified economic activities, increased tourism, migration and needs of local population. All the studies show an urgent need for changes of the Governance and Management Systems (GMS) to balance conservation and development in heritage sites.

With the New Roadmap for the MaB Program and its World Network of Biosphere Reserves as well as the World Heritage Sustainability Strategy a new dimension to the status of UNESCO designated sites has been introduced. Accordingly, the governance systems should be adapted to both, the development and the traditional conservation dimensions. The new strategies point to a changed paradigm of natural and cultural resources as substantial drivers of sustainable local development, creating added values and benefits for local people.

Protected area governance systems, whether state-run, private or mixed, are dealing with ‘public goods’ targeted to balance conservation and socio-economic development. The governance models still show their roots in the traditional top-down approaches with a Governance and Management Systems (GMS) focused on coordination of protection and conservation tasks without implementing integrated evidence based approaches with inclusive participation and decision processes. Evidence based territorial governance encompasses the three dimensions Top-down, Bottom-up, Outside-in. It is an instrument to improve effectiveness of management and to involve the local communities and stakeholders in the decision processes in heritage sites.

International and national bodies have to lead the Top-down process defining the overarching norms, principles and objectives, facilitate the elaboration of evidence frameworks, and delegate authority and accountability to the operative level. The international organizations may facilitate standard setting, knowledge dissemination and transfer, and transnational harmonization. The national authorities are required to provide legal and evidence frameworks, deliberative policy instruments and coherent funding as basis for efficient territorial governance.

Local policies have to focus on Bottom-up processes defining strategies and objectives based on local place-based evidences such as resources and needs as well as to support decision taking and the area management. The local population will, not only participate, they will profit from the share of benefit and added values as a return of their investments and increasingly exchange and cooperate internationally.

The public and private institutions providing knowledge, funding, networking, and facilitate the environment for research and innovation as well as the communication systems will have a key role in the Outside-in processes.

The objective of a follow-up study by Loredana T. Alfarè from the National Research Council - Institute of Marine Sciences CNR-ISMAR in Venice (Italy) is to develop innovative approaches of "evidence-based governance" in UNESCO designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The study focuses on 5 World Heritage sites and 20 Biosphere Reserves, located in the Mediterranean Basin. The preliminary results show that it will not be enough to delegate authority and accountability to the local level. Commitment of the authorities, clear purpose and priorities, coordination of the transformation processes, awareness of the vulnerable natural and socio-economic equilibrium as well as open and transparent communication will be needed on the way forward. People and stakeholders have to develop an ownership for the future conservation and development of the sites and will need knowledge, information, funding as well as monitoring and decision tools to act accordingly.

Related article: Shifting protected area strategies to evidence based governance and management by Ruoss & Alfarè 2018.

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