The International Academy on UNESCO Designations and Sustainable Development is a capacity building program conceived and launched in 2015 in collaboration with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, as part of the latter’s interdisciplinary and intersectoral program.

The Academy aims to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda by strengthening the capacities of managing authorities and other local professionals working in UNESCO designations, with particular attention to World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves, Global Geoparks, items inscribed in the lists for intangible cultural heritage and creative cities.

So far, 5 annual international workshops have been organized since 2015, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Mainly held in Turin and the Piedmont region, with an interactive program combining lectures, group work and stakeholder meetings in local real case scenarios, these workshops saw the participation of a diverse group of participants from the European region and beyond, creating a community of professionals and increasing their skills and knowledge on how to promote sustainable development in UNESCO designated sites through the integrated management of cultural and natural resources.

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.