How can local and regional authorities use World Heritage agricultural landscapes as a tool for enhancing the economic and social sustainability of rural areas? Case studies and recommendations for successful knowledge transfer

Contracting Party: The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) (under the Framework Contract No. CDR/TL2/59/2017/1)

Period: 2021-2022

URL: How can local and regional authorities use World Heritage agricultural landscapes as a tool for enhancing the economic and social sustainability of rural areas? Case studies and recommendations for successful knowledge transfer

This study, co-authored with Progress Consulting S.r.l., aims at modelling successful examples of agricultural landscape labelling in Europe, also introducing a cross-border dimension.

Against this backdrop, it analyses the value added by the World Heritage (WH) inscription to the European agricultural landscapes in terms of enhanced economic and social sustainability of rural areas. The study also aims to provide guidance to European local and regional authorities (LRAs) for initiating and financing integrated projects, including cross-border ones, towards the inscription in the WH list.

After defining the agricultural landscapes’ administrative location, a core set of socio-economic indicators has been selected to categorise the 23 WH agricultural landscapes located in the EU27 into three main groups. Five sites have been therefore selected for the development of case studies: Val d’Orcia (Italy), Alto Douro Wine Region (Portugal), Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars (France), Hortobágy National Park - the Puszta (Hungary) and Wachau Cultural Landscape (Austria).

In addition to case study development, an online consultation has been carried out to collect the experience and opinion of public authorities, civil society and other entities/organisations that host, manage and/or interact with the agricultural landscapes.

The study also provides an overview of the EU funds used to preserve the agricultural heritage. The main EU funds used towards this scope are the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

As also evidenced by the five case studies, synergies between cultural heritage, environmental and economic labels are found in almost all agricultural landscapes that have natural protected areas within their boundaries, such as Natura 2000, or parks.

Guidelines for LRAs are also provided with the aim to support LRAs in navigating the different steps of the nomination process in the World Heritage list. According to the findings presented in the study, recommendations are ultimately proposed to encourage LRAs to use the WH labelling instrument for improving the economic and social sustainability of their rural areas.