World Heritage (WH) sites are areas for international conservation of nature and culture with outstanding universal values. The Nordic countries possess two large landscapes with WH recognition that serve as a base for this study, the WH Laponia and the WH High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago. The WH Laponia in Sweden combines both cultural and natural value; the Norwegian area of Laponia is not designated WH, but represents an area with governmental ambitions to become an UNESCO WH site. The WH High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago (Sweden/Finland) is a serial-nominated, transnational WH site designated purely on nature merits. Within these WH sites, there are local communities and indigenous peoples with democratic rights who participate in the management of the areas and use the local resources of their natural environment.
This article analyses the processes of WH nomination and implementation of the WH Convention (1972) in the Nordic countries. It also depicts a strong Nordic tradition of transnational learning (TNL) which is also used within WH governance. The article uses comparative methods and theories of governance, co-management, transnational governance and TNL in the analysis of the transboundary WH sites. The empirical results illustrate the challenges of local democratic participation in the national and transnational decision-making regarding nomination and implementation of the WH Convention. It suggests that deficiency of democratic participation during early stages in pre-WH designation processes may be compensated by TNL. Learning between and within WH-related networks and groups, show in the Nordic perspective examples of incorporating WH stakeholders in cooperation across national borders. TNL may be restricted by cultural and legal limitations.Key Words: Transboundary World Heritage sites, Laponia, High Coast/Kvarken Archipelago, transnational learning, transboundary governance, participation