Protecting the Tangible Heritage

In the field of the tangible heritage, UNESCO's actions focus on the identification, protection and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage considered to be of outstanding and universal value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Adopted by UNESCO in 1972, the Convention now has 167 States parties. The World Heritage List, which was created under this convention, today includes 812 sites -- 628 cultural, 160 natural and 24 mixed -- in 137 countries, including 23 sites in 11 SIDS (Bahrain, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Malta, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Seychelles and Solomon Islands). Cultural properties on the list include Old Havana and its fortifications in Cuba, Paphos and painted churches in the Troodos region in Cyprus, the colonial city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the Natural History Park and Citadel, Sans Souci and Ramiers in Haiti, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park in St Kitts & Nevis. New sites added to the World Heritage List in 2005 included Qal'at al-Bahrain Archaeological Site (Bahrain) and the Urban Centre of Cienfuegos (Cuba).

In terms of both cultural as well as natural sites, the World Heritage List contains relatively few sites in small island developing nations, and several measures are being taken to redress this imbalance, including the elaboration and development or regional initiatives such as the Caribbean Action Plan in World Heritage and the diffusion and use of educational resource kits such as Our Pacific Heritage: The Future in Young Hands, which seeks to introduce World Heritage education into classroom teaching.

The Caribbean Action Plan in World Heritage was developed during a meeting that took place in Castries, Saint Lucia, in February 2004 in which twenty representatives of Caribbean States Parties and Associated Territories participated, coming from Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, and Turks & Caicos, together with representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom, UNESCO, the World Heritage Committee, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), the Organization of American States (OAS), UNEP (RAC-SPAW), and the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA).

The Action Plan (2004-2014) is structured according to the four Strategic Objectives adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2002 (Credibility, Conservation, Capacity Building and Communication) and sets out priorities for programme and project development and implementation in the field of World Heritage conservation management in the Caribbean region for the next 10 years.

For the Pacific region, the World Heritage Pacific Programme 2009 was approved by the World Heritage Committee in 2003 and was officially launched in October 2004 at a workshop at Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. Among the outputs, an Action Plan gives priorities for actions that need to be undertaken to achieve concrete objectives and results identified by the Committee.

Preparatory assistance is being provided for the development of a potential transboundary World Heritage (WH) site linked to the Slave Route. A special SIDS programme is being initiated by the World Heritage Centre in cooperation with other UNESCO units and programmes. At the request of SIDS, support is being provided to national WH strategy workshops, aimed at elaborating Tentative Lists and nominations to the WH List, as well as pilot projects to involve local communities in conservation management of WH sites in SIDS.

Underpinning these 'in progress' initiatives are capacity building and training activities of various kinds, such as regional training programmes for the Caribbean, Pacific and western Indian Ocean. Intercultural exchanges are also being promoted using the logistic and cooperative frameworks provided by the World Heritage Convention. An example is a study tour by traditional leaders from Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia to Tongariro National Park in New Zealand, the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List under the cultural landscapes criteria.

In line with the recognized need to give further attention to the World Heritage in SIDS regions, at its 29th session in Durban (South Africa) in July 2005, the World Heritage Committee officially approved the SIDS Programme on World Heritage, including measures for the coordination of all matters pertaining to World Heritage conservation management and the initiation of projects thereto.

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