What is WRL


World Rural Landscapes is an initiative launched by the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA to foster the worldwide cooperation in the study, management and protection of rural landscapes.


Rural landscapes are encountering a growing interest and concern around the world. Many initiatives are being carried out to understand, protect and enhance the tangible and intangible values that the landscapes hold, as a reaction to the deep transformations they are enduring. These changes include abandonment of the land, intensification of the agriculture, loss of traditional and local knowledge, pressure of urban development, etc.


Many traditional rural landscapes have a holistic and complex character that expresses a unique sense of place, and are the key component of the identity of people. Moreover, many traditional rural landscapes are exponents of sustainable land-use acquired over years of rural practice. Such rural landscape practices respect the natural characteristics of the land they occupy, maintain the biodiversity and also keep the rich cultural diversity. In addition the rural landscape today is an economic and cultural resource for future generations and therefore, its careful protective management is crucial.


The large number of theoretical approaches and operational tools to deal with the study and safeguarding the heritage values of rural landscapes, reflects the diversity and complexity of disciplines, socio-cultural contexts and administrative organizations of each geographical area. However, what is missing is debate and a consideration of differing views so that common principles can be developed that can provide a more considered approach to interventions in rural landscapes to protect their heritage values.


As regards to the World Heritage Convention, rural landscapes are within the category of evolved continuing cultural landscapes and their heritage and management is a major international concern.


The International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL) ICOMOS-IFLA has launched this initiative to foster the worldwide cooperation in the understanding, management and protection of rural landscapes. In support of this target the ISCCL Working Group is developing a series of documents that aim to be an international framework reference that will allow a more coherent and collaborative approach to the matter. 


This initiative is meant to allow different institutions and stakeholders to: i) exchange experiences and knowledge, and to ii) reinforce the great worth of high quality rural landscapes, based on their local distinctiveness and on the traditional knowledge and uses.


Cooperation. ISCCL asks for participation and cultural contribution of other ICOMOS ISCs, and major international institutions and organizations (UNESCO, WHC, FAO, IFLA, IUCN, Council of Europe, NGOs etc.) as well as any Research Centre, Institution, Administration and Cultural Association interested in joining and enriching this multifaceted initiative.


Xinghua Duotian rural system, China (photo: Liu Jian)