The World Heritage Committee will consider requests for the inscription of 45 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List when it meets for its 31st session in Christchurch, New Zealand, from 23 June to 2 July.
During the session, the Committee will also examine a strategy to reduce risks from disasters at World Heritage properties; the impact of climate change on World Heritage sites; and the concept of “outstanding universal value” which is the basis for the inscription of sites on the World Heritage List.
The opening ceremony of the 31st session will start with a Powhiri traditional Maori ceremony. The opening will feature addresses by Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO; Zhang Xinsheng, Chairman of UNESCO’s Executive Board; and the Chair of the World Heritage Committee, Tumu Te Heuheu, paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa and a Ministerial appointment to New Zealand’s Historic Places Trust Board and Maori Heritage Council.
The 45 sites to be considered for inscription this year include 11 natural sites, one of which is an extension, 32 cultural sites, and two mixed sites. A total of 39 countries are presenting sites for inscription this year: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Two of the sites presented this year are transnational.
The state of conservation of the 31 World Heritage sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger will be examined during the session and the Committee may decide to add new sites to that list of properties whose preservation require special attention. Included on the Danger list are sites which are threatened by a variety of problems such as natural disasters, pillaging, pollution, and poorly managed mass tourism.
A working session will be devoted to the state of conservation of the World Heritage site of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls and in particular on the archaeological excavations at the Mughrabi ascent.
To date, UNESCO’s 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage protects 830 properties of “outstanding universal value,” including 644 cultural, 162 natural and 24 mixed properties in 139 States Parties.
The Convention encourages international cooperation to safeguard the common heritage of humanity. With 184 States Parties, it is one of the most widely ratified international legal instruments. When they sign the Convention, States Parties commit to preserve sites on the World Heritage List, as well as sites of national and regional importance, notably by providing an appropriate legal and regulatory framework.
The World Heritage Committee is comprised of representatives of 21 countries, elected by the States Parties for up to six years. Each year, the Committee adds new sites to the List. The sites are proposed by the States Parties. Applications are then reviewed by two advisory bodies: cultural sites by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and natural sites by the World Conservation Union (UICN). The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ICCROM) provides expert advice on conservation and training in restoration techniques.
The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the 1972 Convention. It examines reports on the state of conservation of the inscribed sites and asks States Parties to take measures when necessary. The Committee supervises the disbursement of over $4 million per annum from the World Heritage Fund, aimed at emergency action, training of experts and encouraging technical cooperation. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is the Secretariat of the World Heritage Committee.