Connecting Practice Project, bridging the gap between nature and culture in World Heritage

Published: 15 July 2021
Last edited: 15 July 2021
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Since 2013, ICOMOS and IUCN have been conducting Connecting Practice, a joint project aimed at developing new methods and conservation strategies that recognise and sustain the interconnected character of the natural, cultural, and social values of World Heritage sites. The project aims to develop practical strategies for a more integrated conservation approach and to improve coordination and deepen collaboration between cultural and natural sectors to achieve better conservation outcomes. A more ambitious goal is to gain a deeper understanding of interconnections of culture and nature and influence shifts in the conceptual and practical approaches for values assessment, governance and management within the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and beyond. This collaborative project is designed to learn from practice by having interdisciplinary teams work with staff and partners from World Heritage sites that illustrate the interlinkage of cultural and natural heritage.


Central America
East Asia
East Europe
East and South Africa
North Africa
North America
West Asia, Middle East
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Desert ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Hot desert
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Ecosystem services
Land management
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Traditional knowledge
World Heritage
Other theme
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Land and Forest degradation
Sea level rise
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Invasive species
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Infrastructure development
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of infrastructure
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Konso, Southern Nations, Ethiopia | Maloti-Drachensberg (Lesotho & South Africa); Hani Rice Terraces (China); Pico Island (Portugal); Saloum Delta (Senegal)
Sian Kaan, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Hortobágy, Hajdú-Bihar, Hungary
Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Yunnan, People's Republic of China


A main challenge is that each property has unique natural, cultural and social values, with management, governance and conservation frameworks dependent on the setting and organisation of each site. Ensuring a holistic view of all values (OUV and other values) and attributes/features at site and institutional level, is often a challenge.

Connecting Practice follows an experiential learning approach, creating short, intense experiences during field visits. Creating accessible resources containing information and knowledge collectively produced during field visits is often difficult. Ensuring respectful and equal interaction and learning opportunities for participants in fieldwork and site visits involves the inclusion of local authorities, national focal points, site managers, and colleagues from both natural and cultural heritage backgrounds.

Feedback indicates high expectations for the project and managing these growing expectations will be a challenge for future project phases.


Beneficiaries of this solution include site managers, local communities, organisations and independent experts involved in site management and visits; international organisations (ICOMOS, IUCN, FAO, etc.); and the global World Heritage community.

How do the building blocks interact?

The solution centres on increased collaboration among communities and organisations to ‘bridge the divide’ between cultural and natural values and encourage holistic management, governance and conservation strategies at World Heritage sites.

Enhanced cooperation and strengthened international partnerships, particularly for ICOMOS and IUCN (BB1), with common Terms of Reference, combined fieldwork site visits, and a joint final report, encourages nature/culture interaction at international and local levels.

The use of diverse teams (BB2), including ICOMOS and IUCN representatives, local and regional partners, site managers and community groups, fosters a network of cooperation and widens the scope of discussion.

Collaborative fieldwork promotes increased integration of diverse groups (BB3), creating a more holistic understanding of sites while supporting the development of improved management strategies and creating more collaborative approaches to culture and nature at all levels.

The Commentary on Keywords (BB4) supports collaborative work by creating generally accepted terms and concepts. This helps address misunderstanding resulting from various meanings in different disciplines which hinders a common approach to understanding.


Environmental: Connecting Practice emphasises collaborative efforts to better understand nature/culture duality. Impacts include revision of the Enhancing our Heritage Toolkit to include Cultural World Heritage sites and contribution to the preparation of a joint manual for both natural and cultural World Heritage properties. The project has impacted the nomination process, namely at the Preliminary Assessment stage, where a joint ICOMOS–IUCN World Heritage Panel is envisaged.

Social: Experiential learning has proven valuable for participants and provided distinct guidance for future work, with emphasis on the importance of human interaction and equal, collective learning experiences at site-level. The diverse fieldwork teams have created a broader dialogue with benefits gained from mutual learning experiences and practices. As a think-tank of new concepts and ideas, Connecting Practice has created positive impacts by directly testing working methods and tools for future use by site managers.

Economic: A common barrier to effective integration of natural and cultural heritage is the separation of institutional arrangements. Results produced by the project extend beyond the World Heritage system and can contribute to the integration of nature-culture management practices at heritage sites with multiple designations.

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International Secretariat International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

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