World Heritage UK’s President, Chris Blandford, attended the 5th European Meeting of the World Heritage Associations in Ibiza on the 26th and 27th November as an invited speaker. The conference was hosted by the Spanish World Heritage Cities Group who generously sponsored event costs.
The theme of the conference was ‘Sustainable Management of World Heritage Sites’ and papers were presented on economic, social and environmental approaches. Chris Blandford was invited to present a paper on ‘World Heritage: a New Opportunity for Global Tourism’, a version of the UK World Heritage Review summary he gave at this year’s annual conference in Llangollen. It was followed at the Ibiza meeting by a discussion on how most other European countries faced similar challenges but had not so far had the opportunity or resources to bring the case forward to their governments.
The UK Review’s main report includes a short section comparing the considerable support offered to other country Associations by their governments and the tourism sector, dissimilar to the UK situation. Nevertheless, the European country associations feel that the activities of World Heritage UK demonstrate good practice and are keen to maintain contact through the emerging umbrella group, the “European Group of World Heritage Associations”. A further outcome from this engagement is that World Heritage UK, through its presence at these meetings over the last few years, has been contributing to the evolution of an informal governance structure for this group.
Strengthening of World Heritage UK’s ties, relationships, and networking with the other European country World Heritage associations similar to World Heritage UK, together with the promulgation of the Review conclusions to a wider audience beyond the UK are of significance. The latter is obviously very relevant as the UK leaves the European Union and it reinforces the notion that World Heritage has “no boundaries” and will continue to be a pan-Europe concept.
In addition to increasing World Heritage UK’s international credibility, another outcome of being part of this group is learning how World Heritage works in different parts of Europe so that this can be used to expand the case for better support for World Heritage here.
Equivalent associations to World Heritage UK meet once a year to share experience and good practice. 80 delegates were represented in Ibiza, from Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland and others. World Heritage UK has been regularly represented at these meetings and other workshops over the last three years and is developing a growing network of contacts across Europe. It is expected that the 2020 meeting will take place in Bordeaux.
Ibiza town is not all clubs and mega-yachts. The host World Heritage Site in Ibiza is a ‘Mixed’ cultural and natural site combining a dramatic and well preserved old town, citadel and defences (demonstrating visible stages from Roman, Islamic, Medieval and Renaissance periods) and an extensive marine and coastal ecosystem containing the rare seagrass habitat (Posidonia – an endemic species only found in the Mediterranean).