World Heritage

Chapter 4.8 World Heritage (Report to the Storting (white paper) no. 35 (2012-2013) The Cultural Heritage Policy).

Chapter 4.8 of the Report to the Storting (white paper) no. 35 (2012-2013) sets out the Norwegian policy on world heritage. The policy has been continuously implemented since its publication and the priorities have been continued in the new Report to the Storting (white paper) no. 16. 2019-2020.

Buildings covered by snow after a blilzzard
The old mining town of Røros is one of Norway's World Heritage Sites. Foto: Snorre Tønset/KLD

4.8 World Heritage 1

The World Heritage Convention (UNESCO, 1972) has been ratified by 190 countries and is thereby one of the most popular conventions. The idea that there are values which all of mankind collectively must protect, across borders, across generations, across trades and professions, has been a great success. The Convention's most important instrument is the list of the world's cultural and natural heritage, which today numbers almost one thousand World Heritage properties.

An ancient stave church in Urnes Norway.
The ancient stave church in Urnes Norway Foto: Arve Kjersheim/Riksantikvaren

The Convention bridges the gap between culture and nature and encourages an ethical, holistic approach to the task of taking care of man's basis of existence, as well as the results of man's creativity.

The states which have ratified the Convention are obliged to:

  • cooperate internationally by assisting states in need of technical or economical support
  • identify World Heritage within its own territory
  • secure and protect World Heritage
  • communicate World Heritage by means of educational programmes and information

Norway was among the first countries to ratify the Convention (in 1977). Professionalism and good management systems have been important for Norwegian authorities, who have been strong supporters for and contributors to UNESCO. Furthermore, Norway has contributed to strengthening the Nordic collaboration. Today there are seven World Heritage properties in Norway, see box 4.14.

Eider duck house at Skjærvær, the western and outer part of the Vega Archipelago, Vega, Nordland.
Eider duck house at Skjærvær, the western and outer part of the Vega Archipelago, Vega, Nordland. Foto: Elisabet Haveraaen, Ministry of Climate and Environment.

Norway's ambition in implementing the obligations following the Convention is high: The Norwegian World Heritage properties shall be developed as "lighthouses" for best practice for managing culture and nature, see White Paper no. 26 (2006-2007) The Government's Environmental Policy and the State ofthe Environment in Norway.

UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee make requests to the States Parties regarding the implementation of the Convention, specifically when it comes to managing the properties which are inscribed on the World Heritage List. The requests apply for instance for monitoring, presentation, capacity (skills) and international assistance. At the same time there are growing expectations to what the status as a World Heritage property might contribute to a community, a region or the nation. Local expectations may also generate pressure on the World Heritage property, which again may result in conflicts of interest between desires to develop business based on World Heritage values and the need to protect a vulnerable site. At the same time, the growing attention given to World Heritage properties also causes greater need for information, capacity building and communication.

Box 4.14 Norwegian World Heritage

By January 1st 2013 the Norwegian World Heritage sites are (year of inscription is written in parenthesis):

  • Bryggen in Bergen (1979)

  • Urnes Stave Church (1979)

  • Røros Mining town (1980, extended 2010)

  • The Rock Art of Alta (1985)

  • Vega Archipelago (2004)

  • West Norwegian Fjords (2005)

  • Struve Geodetic Arc (2005)

Managing World Heritage properties involves a range of sectors and stakeholders, including ten2 ministries, each with sector responsibilities concerning the cultural and natural heritage3. The authorities, nationally, regionally and locally, should take greater responsibility in protecting World Heritage. There is a need for clarifying roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders. Better coordination and further development of the mechanisms of collaboration between the different sectors is also needed. Until today, the Norwegian implementation of the Convention has not been sufficiently regulated.

The old pier in Bergen with its old warehouses.
The old pier in Bergen with its old warehouses is a World Heritage site in Norway. Foto: Arve Kjersheim/Riksantikvaren

4.8.1  Identification and nomination of World Heritage in Norway

As a State Party to the World Heritage Convention Norway is obliged to draw up a list of cultural and natural heritage within its own territory, heritage which may have universal values according to the criteria of the Convention, and which the State Party intents to nominate to the World Heritage List the coming five years: Norway's tentative list. This list is scientifically well founded. Its last revision was done by the Ministry of the Environment4 in 2007. Today Norway's tent.ative list includes six sites which are identified to support the thematic representativeness of the World Heritage List, see box.

Box 4.15 Noiway's tentative List

By January 1st 2013 Norway's Tentative List consists of (year of inscription on the Tentative Llst is written in parenthesis):

  • The Laponian Area - Tysfjord, the fjord of Hellem obotn and Rago (extension) (2002)
  • The Lofoten Islands (2002)
  • Svalbard Archipelago (2007)
  • The Islands of Jan Mayen and Bouvet as parts of a serial transnational nomination of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge system (2007)
  • Rjukan/Notodden and Odda/Tyssedal Industrial Heritage Sites, Hydro Electrical Powered Heavy Industries with associated Urban Settlements (Company Towns) and Transportation System (2009)
  • Viking Monuments and Sites/Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quem stone Quarries (2011)

The last two are in process of nomination.

Internationally the States Parties give priority to achieving a balanced,  representative and credible World Heritage List. Today there is an imbalance between continents and countries when it comes to being represented on the World Heritage List. This imbalance is due rather to lack of resources than to lack of diversity of cultural and natural heritage. Norway's heritage is well represented on the List and Norway wishes to constrain new nominations.

If, however, the Government does decide to nominate properties which are inscribed on our Tentative List it will have as a consequence that within a period of five years Norway may have several new World Heritage properties. Managing both existing and possibly new World Heritage sites will be challenging. Therefore, the Norwegian authorities should give priority to protecting its World Heritage already on the List.

A broad national process is necessary before a property is nominated to the World Heritage List. A nomination must be founded locally, regionally and nationally.

The main part of the Norwegian Tentative List is originally a result of Nordic cooperation. The Norwegian Government wants to take the initiative to establish a new Nordic project to stimulate a new common Nordic policy and practice in the management of World Heritage properties based on experience and knowledge accumulated since the last Nordic project.

The Government will:

  • give priority to the protection of existing World Heritage and the follow-up of nominations already initiated

  • take initiative to a new Nordic cooperation project to improve the Nordic countries' implementation of the World Heritage Convention

4.8.2 Organization, stakeholders and cooperation

A number of stakeholders and sectors are involved in implementing the World Heritage Convention. The Norwegian authorities have not systematically involved all sectors, but have collaborated with relevant stakeholders some from case to case. The objective, however, is a holistic, intersectorial implementation. The Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Norwegian Directorat e for Cultural Heritage and the Norwegian Environment Agency have the main responsibility for the implementation. In addition, several ministries, regional and local municipalities and county governors are involved. The ambition of the Ministry of Climate and Environment is for the authorities to be better coordinated in the implementation of the Convention. The Ministry will clarify the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and secure sufficient capacity, resources and qualities of all elements. For that purpose the Ministry will establish an Interministerial World Heritage Forum.

Dialog and information between the authorities and the local community is essential for good management. The Ministry of Climate and Environment will therefore establish another forum for this purpose: a yearly meeting between governmental authorities and representatives from the local World Heritage properties. To secure this dialog and information flow on a more daily basis between the national, regional and local levels, special coordinating functions locally will be needed. The Government will enable the communities to establish such functions, possiblyin the form a World Heritage coordinator. Such a coordinating function should be a driving force in the local work.

Local ownership, local responsibility and local involvement are tools for the best possible local coordination and management. With a view to strengthen ownership, responsibility and involvement, the Ministry of Climate and Environment will establish local World Heritage advisory boards at each property. The collaboration between the different stakeholders will be organized so as not to come into conflict with the different authorities' responsibilities and roles according to national legislation.

Non-governmental organizations are important agents in society. The commitment of non-governmentalorganizations is a necessary supplement to public management in the follow-up of World Heritage status. During the last years several organizations working within the World Heritage field have been established. Their work constitutes an important contribution to the preservation of their respective World Heritage properties. The Ministry will consider involving them in a more formal way. To ensure a broader local engagement in the management the Government will consider involving stakeholders from trade and commerce.

The Government will:

  • define sector responsibilities and coordinate the governmental policy concerning World Heritage

  • ensure the flow of information between authorities and the local community

  • ensure broad local ownership and follow-up of World Heritage implementation by establishing World Heritage advisory boards and local coordinating functions

4.8.3 Legislation and management plan for the World Heritage

One of the World Heritage Convention's demands is that the World Heritage properties are ensured a long term protection. In Norway the Norwegian World Heritage values are protected by the Cultural Heritage Act, the Nature Diversity Act and the Plan and Building Act and in some cases also by other sector acts. Our World Heritage has good legal protection.

According to the World Heritage Convention and its Operational Guidelines all World Heritage sites are required to have a management plan. The management plan shall describe the stakeholders involved, their roles and responsibilities and the activities which should be carried out. In Norway work is in progress to develop better and more operative plans, and it is necessary to ensure that these are more systematic and can be used by all the relevant stakeholders. Management plans must be developed through processes involving all these stakeholders. All relevant statutory local and regional plans and plans for the management of nature conservation areas must include the responsibilityfor managing World Heritage sites. On the other hand, the holistic management plan for World Heritage properties should include all relevant paragraphs in the above-mentioned plans. The property's management plan is essential in making all stakeholders aware of the World Heritage values are and their carrying capacity.

World Heritage is to a growing extent exposed to threats. Increasing attention is drawn to measures taken outside World Heritage properties, measures which might have a negative impact on the properties. All States Parties are therefore encouraged to establish buffer zones around the World Heritage properties to protect their values.

The Government will:

  • ensure that the Norwegian World Heritage sites have good management plans

  • ensure that Norwegian World Heritage properties have coordinated and holistic management plans

4.8.4 Monitoring, inspection and reporting

A systematic monitoring of the threats is the most important tool for being able to identify and react to growing trends. The World Heritage properties report every third year to UNESCO - periodic reporting. These reports shall detect such threats. There are comprehensive processes in which the authorities in each region cooperate systematically to assure the quality of these periodic reports.

Apart from contributing to the periodic reporting to UNESCO Norway does not monitor its World Heritage properties more than other culture and nature sites in Norway. The Ministry of Climate and Environment therefore acknowledges that there is a need for a more frequent reporting on status and developments to support the precautionary principle. The Ministry of Climate and Environment therefore strengthens the monitoring by introducing a yearly, simplified reporting to the Government. As a tool for this monitoring measurable indicators will be developed for all th e World Heritage values. In this way it should be possible to detect an unwanted developmentand act in time.

The Government will:

  • give priority to monitoring the World Heritage properties

4.8.5 Education, communication and capacity building

As a party to the World Heritage Convention Norway is obliged to present to the general public information on the work being done under the Convention and on dangers which threaten this cultural and natural heritage. Until now Norway has given low priority to communication and education in the field of World Heritage. The attention drawn to World Heritage and the need for information has increased and there are now plans to strengthen the awareness of, the involvement in and the support to World Heritage among the young and the adults. This is to be done through education and communication.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment will establish an internet site where all the relevant Norwegian World Heritage informa tion will be available. The target groups for this internet site are administrators and stakeholders at all levels. The World Heritage centres, museums and national park centres will all play an active role in communicating World Heritage's values and their carrying capacity. The Ministry will be responsible for the internet site and will consider which other channels or medias to involve in communicating World Heritage activities to the general public.

To be able to make the best choices and thereby contribute to a positive development of th e World Heritage properties, the local, public and private stakeholders need relevant qualifications. This applies to all stakeholders from authorities to non-governmental organizations. It is therefore necessary to build knowledge about the obligations demanded by the Convention, about changes and new demands. To protect World Heritage properties a range of special skills and expert knowledge is also necessary. Both the directorates5 and the World Heritage advisory boards will work systematically on achieving this.

The intangible cultural heritage will be an integr al part of the presentation of the tangible cultural heritage. It is important for the local public and visitors to understand the tangible and intangible values a World Heritage site represents. Therefore, the Ministry will strengthen its efforts to better coordinate the implementation of the two conventions - the World Heritage Convention (1972) and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).

Most of the Norwegian communities which host a World Heritage site integrate World Heritage education in the ordinary curriculum. The World Heritage and the cultural and natural values it represents are relevant to several subjects and different themes, from mathematics and art to biology and architecture. It is an ambition to develop a program for supplementary training for teachers who teach World Heritage. Such a program will be developed at one or more teachers' training collages. A World Heritage teaching manual will be compiled . The Norwegian World Heritage properties shall be resources for schools in their region.

More research and development relevant for securing, conserving and communicating World Heritage values is required. Since the World Heritage Convention is global research into how the Convention is implemented in an international perspective is of special interest.

The Government will:

  • ensure that information on World Heritage is easily accessible stimulate and strengthen the communication of and education in World Heritage

  • ensure capacity building, both general management competence and different types of expert knowledge and special skills

  • strengthen holistic implementation of the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage

4.8.6 Centres for World Heritage

An arena or a centre for presenting good information to all visitors is important. Local driving forces are also needed in safeguarding World Heritage, forces which can contribute to fulfil the Convention's invitation to the local community to participate in protecting World Heritage. Such an arena or centre should function as a place for discussion or social gathering, as an inspiration to the local community and at the same time support the World Heritage advisory board. The Ministry of Climate and Environment will encourage and support the establishing of World Heritage centres at all the Norwegian World Heritage properties.

One fixed model for such a centre is not necessarily suitable. The size and design of the individual centre must be estimated on the basis of the character of the particular site, its need for giving out information, its activities and on the basis of the existing infrastructure. The main rule should be that World Heritage centres are localized together with existing centres e.g. centres for natural information, museums or administration centres in the national parks so that they can fill several functions. A system for authorizing the centres will be established. There will be requirements as to the quality and renewing of their exhibitions, to their collaboration with relevant stakeholders and to the different services and activities they will have to provide.

The Government will:

  • continue cooperating with local communities and other stakeholders in developing good centres for the communication and presentation of the World Heritage properties and their values

4.8.7 International obligations under the Convention

The responsibility for international aid and support is a central element in the Convention and in the international cooperation. Norway has been one of the major contributors in the international follow-up of the Convention. The Ministry of Climate and Environment's ambition is to continue to be an essential collaborating partner internationally. The Nordic collaboration will be an important element in the international cooperation.

Norway should participate with experts in different fields, projects and programs stressing cooperation in fields where Norway can make a difference. In this way Norway will strengthen the development of its own expertise and its own specialist environments, and at the same time be a more relevant and attractive partner. It is also important that representativesfrom our World Heritage sites participate in international cooperation, thus contributing to raise the local World Heritage property's competence and capacity on its own type of World Heritage. Furthermore, local Norwegian experiences, knowledge and competence will be of importance to stakeholders at other World Heritage sites outside Norway.

During the next 10-15 years it will be important for Norway to contribute in improving the efficiency of and give priority to professionally based decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee and the General Assembly. Norway will contribute to a balanced and credible World Heritage List by strengthening the institutional capacity in countries underrepresented on the List, further decisions supporting the precautionary principle and involve more partners in the implementation of the Convention.

Norway is obliged to contribute economically to the World Heritage Fund. Norway has est ablished and supports the Nordic World Heritage Foundation whose objective is to improve the Nordic implementationof the Convention, mediate Nordic expertise and innovation in the field of World Heritage and contribute to fundraising for World Heritage projects in developing countries.

The Government will:

  • continue Norway's international commitment to and support of World Heritage

1 This is an unofficial translation of chapter 4.8 of the White Paper, presenting the Norwegian policy on World Heritage management.

2 There were ten ministries at the time when the White Paper was approved. After the governmental elections in 2013 there are nine.

3 The nine ministries are: the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Trade , Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

4 In January 2014 the Ministry changed its name from Ministry of the Environment to Ministry of Climate and Environment.

5 The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage and the Norwegian Environment Agency