The Inception Workshop for the project “Towards strengthened governance of the shared transboundary natural and cultural heritage of the Lake Ohrid Region” was held on 15-16 September in Pogradec, Albania, marking the beginning of a three-year project aimed at reinforcing the protection and effective management of the Lake Ohrid region.
More than 20 representatives from Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia participated in the workshop, including the respective Ministries of Environment and Culture, protected area authorities, representatives from the EU Delegation to Albania, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and IUCN.
“Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest lakes in the world, characterized by numerous exceptional natural and cultural features. It enjoys multiple national and international designations, including World Heritage, Biosphere Reserve, and Protected Landscape. It deserves our full support towards its sustainable development as one of the exemplary protected areas in South-Eastern Europe”, said Mr Boris Erg, Director of IUCN Programme Office for South-Eastern Europe.
This project stems from the recently introduced Upstream Process to World Heritage nominations which encourages the Advisory Bodies to engage with the State Parties early on in the nomination process. It is designed to address the main threats affecting the natural and cultural heritage of the Lake Ohrid region such as unplanned urban development, waste management, habitat alteration, and destruction and depletion of natural resources. The project is aimed at strengthening cooperation between the two countries over the region’s cultural and natural heritage.
“This project demonstrates the strong commitment of Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to cooperate on an international level for the protection of the unique transboundary Lake Ohrid region and to safeguard its natural and cultural values for the benefit of future generations”, stated Mr Sinisa Sesum, Head of Antenna Office in Sarajevo, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice.
The project's specific objectives include the reinforcement of transboundary cooperation between the two counties, establishment of integrated management mechanisms, capacity building, and profiling of the transboundary area and its sustainable tourism opportunities. In addition, the project aims to support the efforts of the national authorities in the preparation of a nomination file for the extension to Albania of the World Heritage property “Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region”, of which only the portion in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979. The region’s striving for balancing conservation with sustainable development is reflected in the bilateral Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of Lake Ohrid and its Watershed ratified in 2005.
This joint EU UNESCO initiative is coordinated by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre with the support of the UNESCO Venice Office/Antenna Office in Sarajevo and will be implemented in close partnership with the Governments of Albania through the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and Ministry of Culture, as well as the three Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention: ICOMOS International, IUCN and ICCROM. This USD 2.64 million project is funded by the European Union in the framework of the EU assistance to pre-accession countries in the field of Environment and Climate Change.