14 April 2021

Management Plan for UNESCO World Heritage site “The Old City of Dubrovnik”

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Old City of Dubrovnik was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979. It was noted that the city had retained all the essential elements of the mediaeval structure of the fortified town, including the ramparts, the layout of the streets and squares, impressive public buildings, and private dwellings. At that time, the nomination was limited to the ancient walled city until 1994, when the Committee extended the nominated property to the immediate surroundings that were considered as an integral part of the fortified city, at the same time providing a buffer zone that covered especially the coastal area that formed the immediate context to the inscribed property. In 2018, the buffer zone was significantly extended to a larger territory on the mainland and on the surrounding islands, which complemented and highlighted the historical functional urban identity and integrity of the property.

The World Heritage Dubrovnik is a living part of the whole urbanized space. The city is a symbol of Croatian culture, tradition and outstanding achievements in the field of urbanism, architecture, fine arts, and literature. With the care of its inhabitants, the customs of the population from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day have been preserved and transmitted.

However, UNESCO and ICOMOS report from 2015 pointed out the problems caused by the overdevelopment of tourism and related services, rising living costs and gentrification, which ultimately reduces the quality of life of local people and threatens the Outstanding Universal Value. Problems have also been recorded in the manner and scope of construction in urban areas, reduce of public spaces and green areas and congestion of transport infrastructure. Consequently, the harmonization of development priorities and the integration of sustainable development principles are one of the most important topics of the Management Plan.

The city within the walls should continue to be the urban centre from which the identity of the city derives, which sensitizes the entire local community to respect and preserve the city as its heritage, as part of the community’s inherent identity because only then they will be able to preserve and pass on that heritage to the following generations. For this reason, the primary focus of this Management Plan is on preserving the “living city” and developing an adequate governance structure.

The UNESCO World Heritage Management Plan “Old Town of Dubrovnik” is the first World Heritage Management Plan in Dubrovnik (and the first of its kind in the Republic of Croatia), therefore, it is the basis for further processes of guiding the next generations of plans.

The Management Plan is characterized by an integrated approach through which the protection and preservation of the cultural heritage is combined with the socio-economic development requirements of the territory with a view to ensuring the sustainability in line with the World Heritage requirements and the 2011 UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape Recommendation.

This first-generation Management Plan of the Old City of Dubrovnik needs to be seen in reference to the complex structure of the existing system of administration of the Old City and its surrounding territory. Its aim is to establish a long-term management structure and develop the main management objectives.

Current development based on the mass tourism development is evidently the primary issue of the World Heritage Property management since it also produces a major risk for the Outstanding Universal Value of the site – from the liveability aspects to environmental and conservation issues.

The historic urban landscape of Dubrovnik is a perfect example of the great diversity of heritage resources, including more than a thousand years of history and elements that refer to both cultural and natural heritage each with its specific qualities. Safeguarding this heritage requires involving variety of stakeholders having the required competence and knowledge of the World Heritage property, in order to fully recognise its qualities and its condition within its physical and social, cultural, and economic context.

The strategic actions proposed by the Management Plan are divided into priorities under the following themes:

  • Management of the site and capacity building
  • Protection, Conservation and Maintenance
  • Strategy for Sustainable Development
  • Visitor Management
  • Traffic Management
  • Disaster Management

The development of the UNESCO World Heritage Management Plan for the Old Town of Dubrovnik ensured a participatory approach involving all relevant stakeholders at the regional and local level and the public (citizens) in decision-making processes. The main advantages of this approach are better insight into real problems, creating a strong base for community interventions, timely public involvement and providing an opportunity for all stakeholders to express their opinions and ideas.

The development of the Management Plan was preceded by years of preparatory activities and the implementation of initial research coordinated by the Institute for the Restoration of Dubrovnik with the support of the Commission for Monitoring the Development of the Management Plan. Commission gained experts and representatives from public and academic sector, as well as representatives of citizens and NGOs.

During the development of the Management Plan the capacity building process started and will be continued later on with the implementation of the objectives. Numerous workshops, focus groups, meetings, round tables and interviews with experts were organized to show the difference between the plan and the planning process. Important task was to coordinate and synthesize the expectations of residents and stakeholders about what the plan is and what the plan should become.

The contractor, Faculty of Architecture from Zagreb University, began drafting of the Management Plan with an analysis of the current situation. The process was evaluated in the first round of participation, through which the needs and potentials of further management emerged. Based on the results, the first draft of strategic activities was prepared. The second round of participation and communication resulted with evaluation of the draft of strategic activities and the action plan, done by all stakeholders and citizens involved. It included workshops, a film screening, an exhibition and interview with an international expert and local stakeholders, all with the aim of better integration of citizens in the decision-making process so they would be well prepared for the implementation phase. The development of the Management Plan ended with a public hearing process and we are looking forward to an adoption of the document by the City Council. The development process was led by Institute for the Restoration of Dubrovnik, supervised by the Commission for monitoring the development of the Management Plan.