The management of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Wachau

At the time of the inscription in 2000, the regional associations of the Wachau were already cooperating with many network partners on the protection and development of the Wachau as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This work was placed on a new, comprehensive footing with the UNESCO Management Plan, which has been presented on 29 March 2017.

Wachau Cultural Landscape © Weinstraße Wachau/Rita Newman

The Wachau – a continuing landscape

Under the regulations for implementing the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO, the Wachau is a so-called “continuing landscape” (Article 89 of the implementation guidelines). This means that “dynamic functions present in cultural landscapes, historic towns or other living properties essential to their distinctive character should also be maintained”. These dynamic functions include, for example, the maintenance of winegrowing, the ongoing use and refurbishment of buildings, the ongoing maintenance of nature conservation areas, and generally a capable proportion of the population in the region that cares for the cultural landscape with a sense of joy and motivation.

The decision to deal with protection AND development is thus not only meaningful but even prescribed by UNESCO. In the future as now, the region will therefore invest an important part of its resources in the joint development of projects with the objectives of World Heritage in mind.

Three guidelines

All goals and actions of the future World Heritage management system refer to the three guidelines of the management plan: “Preserving and maintaining the World Heritage”, “Protecting World Heritage through use” and “My World Heritage: learning to appreciate values”.

The three guidelines are equally important. As the work to date primarily focused on the guideline “Protecting World Heritage through use”, it is the management’s goal to pay more attention to the other two guidelines.

The World Heritage advisory board as controlling body

The implementation of the plan as well as ongoing developments in the World Heritage region are monitored by the World Heritage advisory board, which decides on the relevance of developments and initiates further steps in accordance with this classification.

The World Heritage advisory board has three voting members: Mag. Ruth Pröckl (Federal Chancellery (BKA), as “State Party” responsible for World Heritage in Austria), Mag. Martin Grüneis (Office of the Lower Austrian Provincial Government, Department of Art and Culture) and Mag. Roman Janacek (Wachau region, Mayor of the municipality of Bergern). The World Heritage advisory board is supported in its work by the World Heritage management. It usually meets at least three times a year, and more frequently as required.

Information and participation © Pia Kieninger

The management network

It is planned for the regional associations to allocate 1.5 people to direct World Heritage management. The World Heritage management also meets three times a year with other regional employees, the main operational network partners, the Austrian UNESCO Commission, ICOMOS Austria and three representatives of civil society at the so-called Management Network, where it discusses, in particular, how the implementation of the objectives and actions of the Management Plan is progressing. It is supported in this by a number of researchers pertinently involved with the central issues of World Heritage.

The wider regional network is additionally informed about the focal aspects of the joint work at 1 or 2 regular workshops (jour fixes) per year and given the opportunity for discussion and to make its opinions known.

How can I join in?

Once a year, the World Heritage advisory board and the World Heritage management organise the large “Wachauforum”. This event is open to all and provides space to discuss topics relating to the Wachau World Heritage site. The three representatives of civil society in the Management Network are also selected at the Wachauforum each year.

Should you notice things going on in the region that appear critical to you in terms of World Heritage, you can report your observations to the World Heritage management at any time. The management will prepare its data for the World Heritage advisory board, which will then decide how to proceed. You will be informed about the result.

Particularly engaged citizens can also register as “Local Correspondents” and be given the special task of reporting on World Heritage-relevant developments in their area to the World Heritage management. The network, which should have a balanced geographical and socio-demographic structure, will be built up in the coming months.