The future of World Heritage a major issue at Congress
Discussions at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju Korea included an extremely vibrant debate on World Heritage, with no less than eighteen different events.
The IUCN Congress also adopted two motions on World Heritage. A key event on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary was a workshop - “The World Heritage Convention at 40: Engaging the IUCN constituency for conservation and communities”
Over 100 delegates attended representing many government and organisational members of IUCN and IUCN Commission members. Penelope Figgis, Director of the Australian Committee for IUCN chaired this session.
Among speakers at the session were Tim Badman , head of World Heritage for the IUCN, Gonzalo Oviedo, Senior Adviser for Social Policy at IUCN Headquarters in Gland, Harald Lossack working as Head of Competence Center “Biodiversity, Forests, Natural Resources” at GIZ Headquarters, Jessica Brown working with UNDP/GEF Small Grants Pro¬gramme on its Community Management of Protected Areas for Conservation (COMPACT) initiative, which is assisting communities in many World Heritage Areas and Alec Marr the former Executive Director of the Australian Wilderness Society who has been centrally involved in campaigns to protect and champion World Heritage and who is a formation member of World Heritage watch an NGO body to monitor World Heritage processes.
The meeting concluded with an attempt to draw out consensus points to be conveyed to key bodies associated with the Convention. These points have been compiled and sent to the Director General to with a request that IUCN disseminate these views to other parties at both the forthcoming Paris and Kyoto meetings.
What was clear among those who care profoundly about World Heritage is that there are concerns about the state of play, concerns which go to the long term credibility of the Convention. The problems are multifaceted; from the lack of capacity or will which leads to increased ‘in danger’ designations; to the increasing pressures from many threats, which beset even well managed sites; to the lack of proactive assistance to State parties; to internal issues within the Committee which hold the potential to lower the rigour of assessment and therefore potentially harm the critical ‘brand’ of World Heritage.
The meeting called upon the World Heritage Committee to ensure all processes are consistently and rigorously in compliance with the Operational Guidelines and transparent to the wider community, and ensure that the advice of IUCN and ICOMOS is treated with due respect. The meeting also supported initiatives resulting from the World Heritage NGO forum in St Petersburg in 2012 to establish an international network of NGOs to safeguard the integrity and implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
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