AboutZoos, Since 2008


First-​time NGO forum sounds alarm for our World Heritage

pub­lished 14 Novem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

Belize barrier reefBecause I was shocked myself by the unset­tling mes­sage of Alec Marr’s blog, I decided to paste the blog (with minor changes) of this envi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner, con­sul­tant and for­mer Direc­tor of The Wilder­ness Soci­ety, Aus­tralia, as a post in my Bio­di­ver­sity News. It is excep­tional and not nor­mal pro­ce­dure, but why rewrite a blog that addresses so well the issue at stake.

The blog-​post:

This year’s meet­ing of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee was marked by a first-​time NGO Forum to mobilise coor­di­nated sup­port for World Her­itage Sites. A key out­come was the cre­ation of World Her­itage Watch — a net­work of NGOs work­ing to strengthen the imple­men­ta­tion of the World Her­itage Con­ven­tion for bet­ter pro­tec­tion and man­age­ment of World Her­itage Sites.

With 962 prop­er­ties con­sist­ing of 745 cul­tural sites, 188 nat­ural and 29 mixed sites, the World Her­itage Con­ven­tion is one of the strongest con­ven­tions, with 157 State Par­ties. Of the 217 nat­ural World Her­itage Sites (188 nat­ural + 29 mixed), nearly 8% are on the List of World Her­itage in Dan­ger, 25% are affected by seri­ous con­ser­va­tion issues, and the sta­tus of many of these sites is not known.

World Her­itage Sites are the flag­ships of our global pro­tected area sys­tem and should be the show­case of well man­aged, vital ecosys­tems. There have been many suc­cesses over the years and it is fair to say that with­out the World Her­itage Con­ven­tion, the Com­mit­tee and the Advi­sory bod­ies, IUCN, ICO­MOS and ICCROM, many places of out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal value would have been destroyed or lost or mas­sively com­pro­mised.

It comes as quite a shock, to many peo­ple, that there are even dis­putes about pro­tect­ing World Her­itage sites but the fact is, many of these sites have only been pro­tected after pro­tracted, high pro­file dis­putes.

As an NGO observer, I attended the 32nd Ses­sion of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee (my ninth), held in Saint Peters­burg this year. The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee meet­ings are meant to focus on the tech­ni­cal eval­u­a­tions of inscrip­tions of new sites and threats to exist­ing areas. The nor­mal pro­ce­dure is for the rel­e­vant Advi­sory bod­ies to make a rec­om­men­da­tion for the Com­mit­tee to con­sider and after some dis­cus­sion and delib­er­a­tion all or most of the rec­om­men­da­tion is adopted by the Com­mit­tee but that is not what hap­pened in Saint Peters­burg. For exam­ple, four nat­ural World Her­itage sites were kept off the Dan­ger List despite IUCN’s rec­om­men­da­tion that they should be on it: Lake Turkana National Parks in Kenya, Dja Fau­nal Reserve in Cameroon, Vir­gin Komi Forests in Rus­sia, and Pitons Man­age­ment Area in Saint Lucia.

Another exam­ple was the deci­sion to cut about 40,000 hectares from the Selous Game Reserve in Tan­za­nia, to facil­i­tate a Russ­ian owned ura­nium mine in a ses­sion not chaired inde­pen­dently.

Cred­i­bil­ity con­cerns arise and these must be taken seri­ously if the world’s nat­ural her­itage, crit­i­cal to life and com­mu­ni­ties every­where, are to stand a chance.

For those of us around the world who love places on the World Her­itage List, this is a wake-​up call and a plea to become involved in the work of res­cu­ing the Con­ven­tion, the Com­mit­tee, the advi­sory bod­ies and most impor­tant of all our won­der­ful World Her­itage Sites. They are, after all, the out­stand­ing best that our won­drous plan­e­tary home has to offer.

World Her­itage Watch will be doing every­thing pos­si­ble to strengthen the Con­ven­tion, sup­port the work of the advi­sory bod­ies and advo­cate glob­ally for World Her­itage under imme­di­ate threat.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion please con­tact
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The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at IUCN Blog. Minor adjust­ment in para­graph order has been made to the orig­i­nal text.
(Source: IUCN Blog, 14.11.2012)
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