Wadden Sea Day 2017 focuses on partnerships in the Wadden Sea World Heritage

Lower Saxony's Minister for Environmental Affairs, Stefan Wenzel, delivered the opening address. Among the participant were representatives of national state and regional governments from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea national parks and other partner organizations, as well as a delegation from the Italian Dolomites World Heritage site. The Wadden Sea Day is an annual event is organized by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) and the National Park Administration Wadden Sea Lower Saxony.

Left to right: Rüdiger Strempel (CWSS Executive Secretary), Bernard Baerends (Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs), Stefan Wenzel (Lower Saxon Minister of Environment), Juliana Köhler, (Head of the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage Visitor Centre Wilhelmshaven), Andreas Wagner (First Mayor of Wilhelmshaven), Dr. Christiane Paulus (German Ministry of Environment), Peter Südbeck (Head of the National Park Administration Wadden Sea Lower Saxony), Co Verdaas (Chair of the Wadden Sea Board).

The focus of this year's event was on different forms of cooperation, such as the interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral education in the Danish part of the Wadden Sea, partnerships with various stakeholders in World Heritage sites, and the multidisciplinary and transnational cooperation of scientists in the Dutch Young Waddenacademie. Stakeholders from all parts of the Wadden Sea region, representing NGOs, science, commerce, consulting and administrations, made presentations on a broad range of initiatives and activities.

In his welcoming speech, Environment Minister Stefan Wenzel stressed the importance of deepening international cooperation: "Every World Heritage site needs active partners at all levels of society. The protection of our unique landscape is and will remain a task that goes beyond borders and generations. World heritage sites are wonderful places for young and old to learn and gather lasting experiences. "

Mechthild Rössler, the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris, introduced the symposium to the theme: "I have been working for over 25 years for the Word Heritage Center and I have seen that long-term conservation depends mainly on successful partnerships." Though she could not attend the event in person, she greeted the 90 participants via video message. "The international cooperation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands to protect the entire Wadden Sea through the World Heritage Convention may be seen as a lighthouse example of excellence in transnational cooperation and partnership. The important role of the trilateral Common Wadden Sea Secretariat as focal point for this partnership should be emphasized in this respect," says Rössler.

In the afternoon, the speakers discussed the suggested approaches and their significance for the Wadden Sea World Heritage in a panel discussion. In spite of different understandings and approaches, there was an overarching consensus that the Wadden Sea and its outstanding universal value have to be protected and conserved for future generations. It is therefore necessary to win over visitors and inhabitants of the Wadden Sea region for this unique natural landscape and turn them ambassadors for nature conservation and sustainability. Active partnerships between stakeholders within the Wadden Sea region and beyond are an indispensable means for this.

An Italian delegation from the Dolomites participated in the Wadden Sea Day. The UNESCO Dolomites Foundation and CWSS have established an informal partnership and took part in the common booth of the Wadden Sea World Heritage at the ITB Berlin in March. “The dunes of the Wadden Sea and the rocky peaks of the Dolomites seem quite the opposite, yet they are so similar,” says Marcella Morandini, Director of the foundation (left photo): “Not only because of the selection criteria of the nomination to the World Heritage List, but also because they share the peculiarity of having many administrative boundaries and language borders within them.” In her talk, Morandini presented the challenges of and insights gained through cross-sectoral cooperation in the Dolomites World Heritage site.

In the framework of the closing reception the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat celebrated its 30th anniversary. Founded in 1987 and based in Wilhelmshaven, the office coordinates the trilateral cooperation between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands for the protection and conservation of the Wadden Sea and has decisively prompted the entry of the site into the World Heritage List.

Statements of the day:

Co Verdaas, Chair of the Wadden Sea Board:
In my opinion, a World Heritage Site cannot exist on its own; it needs active partners at all levels of society. A World Heritage Site needs partners that, instead of just capitalising on it, are willing to make an active contribution and project a positive image of the World Heritage concept to the outside.

Peter Südbeck, Head of the National Park Administration Wadden Sea Lower Saxony:
31 years after the founding of the National Park we know: Without cooperation, a genuine partnership with as many social groups as possible and a joint commitment for the objectives of nature conversation, we won’t be successful. This is a precondition for a strong identification of the people with their world heritage and for the important steps toward the preservation of the unique nature of the Wadden Sea.

Rüdiger Strempel, CWSS Executive Secretary:
World Heritage belongs to all humankind. Its protection is a task of global significance, which, nevertheless, has to start at our doorstep. The successful conservation of the Wadden Sea and its outstanding universal value requires cooperation with global partners as well as the engagement of the public and stakeholder groups in our Danish-Dutch-German Wadden Sea region.

Eelke Folmer, Young Waddenacademie:
Partnership - which entails dedicated, continuous and long-term collaboration regarding scientific and societal questions - is required to optimally adapt to and benefit from the upcoming changes in the Wadden Sea region. Understanding of the functioning of the Wadden Sea area as a complex socio-ecological system requires a systems analysis approach in which the components and their interactions are studied trans-disciplinary fashion. Holistic and deep understanding can be developed if there is dedication and partnership and is the key to identification of opportunities.

Peter Simonsen, Head of National Park Danish Wadden Sea:
In creating an education network I see a bottom-up approach as a key to get everyone involved and create the understanding that everyone is responsible for their own learning. Our National Park programme for education, learning and competence development follows this approach.

Hans-Ulrich Rösner, Wadden Sea Team:
The Green NGOs began the first conservation work in the Wadden Sea more than 100 years ago. We became then partners of the Wadden Sea World Heritage and will continue to support it, by furthering protection, by public information and interpretation, and by liaising with those who make a living in the region and do this in a sustainable way.

Marco van der Ree, Brokering Solidarity:
World Heritage is ours, and represents the identity of all of us. When we collaborate to protect it, and make it part of our current identity; we are building multi-stakeholder partnerships. Then we should look for the opportunities of where tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, heritage can help us (re)build sustainable lifestyles that fit our identity and can be sustainable for generations to come.

Gerard Kremer, MKB Noord:
If the Wadden Sea wants to become a successful sustainable destination for tourism then both the entrepreneurs and the governments must invest.