Academy on UNESCO Designations
and Sustainable Development 

World Heritage - Intangible Cultural Heritage - Creative Cities - Biosphere Reserves - Global Geoparks

Enabling local solutions for global challenges


The Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development is a capacity building program ideated and implemented by the Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture and UNESCO through the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (based in Venice, Italy), in cooperation with the University of TurinIULM University (Milan) and University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo.

The main objective of the Academy is to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, through the advancement of institutional and professional capacities of managing authorities, communities and relevant operators from  different UNESCO designations from both the Culture and Science sectors.

The Academy was launched in 2015 jointly with the exhibition "Behind Food Sustainability", as a pilot program on the double occasion of the United Nations Development Program "III International Forum on Local Economic Development" and of the EXPO Milan, in collaboration with the United Nations System Staff College and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization. The Academy is mainly based in the city of Turin (Italy), which hosts three different UNESCO designations, related to the World Heritage List, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

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UNESCO designations are the most extended global networks of territories and communities committed to safeguarding their cultural and natural resources as drivers for local sustainable development.

Relevant actors are faced with the challenge to define long-term policies and short-term actions to effectively manage UNESCO designations, in order to fully harness their development potential while at the same time safeguarding their cultural and natural values. Such objective can only be achieved through an integrated and participatory approach, spanning several policy areas and ensuring the active engagement of all relevant stakeholders. A working paper on such topics, titled “UNESCO Clusters. Towards an integrated management perspective for multiple designated areas” was drafted within the works of the Academy.

Based on these principles, the first three workshops of the Academy took place in October 2015, December 2016, October 2017, October 2018 and October 2019, in Turin, Piedmont Region and Lombardy Region. In the past 5 editions, the ACADEMY has reached approximately more than 130 participants from 50 different UNESCO designated areas, now connected by a Community of good practices and knowledge exchange.

Click here to know more about the previous editions.

In response to the disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, an in-depth survey was launched to assess the impact of previous years’ activities. The research findings were analyzed and presented in a technical report, which offers evidence of the Academy’s positive impact especially in terms of knowledge development, networking and international cooperation.


The sixth edition of the Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development will take place in Torino, Ivrea, Biella and Milan from October 4th to October 8th 2021 and all activities will be held online.

The Academy main goals are to provide an opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and territorial good practices at international level on the management of cultural and natural sites, and to contribute to advancing professional and institutional capacities of managing authorities and relevant operators form UNESCO designated sites, in order to increase the benefits for the local communities and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This edition of the Academy mainly focuses on the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, being 2021 the “International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development”.

The cultural sector and the creative economy as been largely affected by the Covid -19 pandemic, revealing and worsening all its pre-existing vulnerability. In this frame, the meeting aims at sharing experiences, defining good practices, and discussing solutions on the integration of creative and cultural industries in the management of UNESCO designated areas.

In line with the Academy’s cross-disciplinary approach, the workshop’s programme offers a combination of lectures, panel discussions and presentations by participants. All activities streamed online via the Zoom platform, will take place in Torino in collaboration with the managing authorities of World Heritage site of Ivrea; the Creative Cities of Torino and Biella; Collina Po Biosphere Reserve and Monviso Transboundary Biosphere Reserve and the Musical art of horn players.

Main Topics

The 2021 program will tentatively focus on the following UNESCO Designations:

  • the World Heritage List;

  • the Intangible Cultural Heritage;

  • the Creative Cities Network;

  • the Biosphere Reserves included in the Man and Biosphere programme;

  • the Global Geoparks Network.

Special attention will paid to "multiple designated areas", i.e. local territories hosting more than one UNESCO Designation, in order to analyse the potentialities, challenges and possible experiences related to the coordination between different designations.

Within this framework, specific sub topics addressed in the 2021 edition will be:


1. Enhancing the value of UNESCO Designations through cultural and creative industries, considering the role of creativity and innovation in community-based development processes.

2. Interpreting cultural heritage in terms of inclusion to ensure the cohesion of our societies and promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, fostering innovation and providing opportunities for local development and entrepreneurship.

3. Tools and labels for integrated management for cultural and natural resources, with special attention to those territories having multiple designations - according to different UNESCO Conventions and Programmes- to enforce their attractiveness as places to live, work and visit.

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Associated partners

In cooperation with

  • Circolo del Design di Torino

  • Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto

  • Fondazione per l’Ambiente

  • GAI

  • Municipality of Genoa

  • Municipality of Ivrea 

  • Musei Reali di Torino

  • Print Club

  • Slow Food Travel 

  • Toolbox coworking

  • Ageendawifi

Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture is organizer and scientific manager of two International Masters dedicated to the capacity-building of professionals working in the cultural heritage sector for the development of cultural related projects and for the protection and preservation of culture in post-disaster and emergency contexts: the Master in Management and Cultural Projects for Development and the Master in Cultural Property Protection in Crisis Response.

Scientific Committee

  • Jonathan Baker (UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe - Science Unit)

  • Martha Friel (IULM University)

  • Patrizia Lombardi (Politecnico di Torino)

  • Matteo Rosati (UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe - Culture Unit)

  • Carlo Salone (University of Turin)

  • Giovanna Segre (University of Turin)


Faculty and contributions

Monica Abbiati, Jonathan Baker, Enrico Bertacchini,  Carlotta Boffa, Paola Borrione, Otto Bugnano, Mauro Carbone, Roberta Cevasco, Paolo Corvo, Saverio Dani, Franco Fassio, Stefano Fenoglio, Laura Fornara, Martha Friel, Agostina Lavagnino, Frank Lohrberg, Cassiano Luminati, Filippo Margiaria, Angelo Miglietta, Stefano Parise, Alessio Re, Matteo Rosati, Donatella Saccone, Nuria Sanz Gallego, Giovanna Segre, Benedetta Ubertazzi, Gabriele Volpato.

Academy coordination

Alessio Re (Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture)


​Ottavia Arenella, Paola Borrione, Erica Meneghin, Andrea Porta

With the support of

Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione Cariplo, Fondazione CRT,

Fondazione CRC.