UNESCO World Heritage

The Wachau Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2000.

The World Heritage Convention was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, in order to select areas of natural and cultural heritage and inscribe them on a list of world heritage that is of particular interest and value for the whole of humanity. By signing the Convention, each country commits to protect and conserve the monuments of extraordinary, worldwide importance, situated on its territory, which are inscribed on the World Heritage List.

As of January 2019, 1,092 sites in 167 countries are protected by the World Heritage Convention. The numbers are updated daily and an overview can be found here.

The Cultural Landscape in the sense of the World Heritage Convention

The Wachau is inscribed on the World Heritage List in the category "Cultural Landscape" and is thus part of the World’s Cultural Heritage. In the context of the guidelines, it is classified as a “continuing landscape”, which is characterised by a particular culture and continues its traditional way of life. The culture and landscape still influence each other and contribute their distinctiveness to the ongoing development of the landscape.

Austria and the World Heritage Convention

Austria acceded to the Convention in 1992. Since then, ten sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Federal Chancellery is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and is assisted by the Austrian UNESCO Commission and the Department for Culture of the province of Lower Austria. ICOMOS, an international association of experts specialised in the protection of cultural property, plays a key role in providing expert guidance.

The inscription of the Wachau Cultural Landscape on the World Heritage List and its consequences

Following informational events for the local population, all municipalities in the Wachau unanimously submitted the application for “European Diploma of Protected Areas: Wachau”, supplemented with the historic centre of Krems and Göttweig Abbey, for consideration as a future World Heritage Site. On 30 November 2000, the UNESCO Commission in Cairns, Australia, decided to inscribe the Wachau on the list of World Heritage Sites.

The inscription of the Wachau on this list represented a highlight for the Arbeitskreis Wachau (Wachau working group) in its almost 30 years of existence at the time. Protecting the Wachau against large-scale and other substantial interventions has become a matter for the international community of states.

Henry Cleere, who deals with questions of world heritage as an international expert of ICOMOS, says about the prerequisites of a “continuing landscape”: “A landscape that is ‘frozen’ in its existing condition at the time of its inscription on the World Heritage List logically cannot be a ‘continuing landscape’.” It follows from this that being made a World Heritage Site is an accolade that has to be put into practice. Inscription on the World Heritage List is not associated with any form of law or regulation and no new competences are introduced. The existing rules and regulations remain fully applicable at federal and provincial level.