World Heritage Convention
The Convention for the Protection of the World’s Natural and Cultural Heritage is a binding legal instrument which provides a permanent legal, financial and administrative framework for international cooperation in contributing to the protection of the world’s natural and cultural heritage. The focus is on unique sites of outstanding and universal value.
The World Heritage List includes small-island sites listed specifically for their biological processes and biodiversity values (category ii and iv natural sites) such as Cocos Island (Costa Rica), two sites in Cuba, Mornes Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica), Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve (Ecuador), Pitons Management Area (St Lucia), Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles), East Rennell (Solomon Islands).
This said, the World Heritage List contains relatively few sites in small island developing nations, in terms of both natural and cultural properties, and several measures are being taken to redress this imbalance. They include decisions by the World Heritage Committee at its twenty ninth session in July 2005 to approve the World Heritage Programme for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the World Heritage Marine Programme, with corresponding budgets financed through the World Heritage Fund.
For the Caribbean, in February 2004, a conference was held in St Lucia on the development of a Caribbean Action Plan in World Heritage. This conference was both the culmination of a series of World Heritage expert meetings and training activities undertaken in the region from 1995 onwards, and the transition to a more comprehensive Caribbean Action Plan for the next ten years.
In the Pacific region, the Action Plan for the Implementation of the World Heritage-Pacific 2 Programme (‘Pacif ic 2009’) provides the overall framework for development of field activities. Component activities in 2005-2006 have included support to World Heritage National Strategy Workshops held in :
- Palikir, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (31 October-5 November 2005),
- Koror, Palau (7-9 November 2005),
In terms of capacity building, a workshop of cultural and natural heritage professionals from Niue, Samoa and Tonga (Apia, Samoa, 24-28 April 2006) focused on the preparation of Tentative Lists and World Heritage nominations.
More recently, an Oceania Regional Forum on Marine Managed Areas and World Heritage (Honolulu, Hawai’i, 29 January-2 February 2007) is being organized in collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmosphereic Administration (NOAA) and the World Heritage Centre’s Marine Programme. The regional forum includes presentation and discussion of current and planned efforts to protect important marine areas and resources in the Pacific.
A few weeks later, a Pacific Island World Heritage Workshop is being held in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand (18-23 February 2007). Exploring the theme of ‘indigeneity’ as it applies to ‘Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage in the Pacific’ is among the aims of this regional workshop, which will also develop a Pacific position paper for the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, later in the year. Prior to the workshop (from 12-17 February), Tongariro National Park plays host to a study tour of traditional and elected leaders from the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
And educational activities at the level of young people include the diffusion and use of 'Our Pacific Heritage: The Future in Young Hands', an educational resource kit for teachers, prepared in cooperation with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and designed to introduce World Heritage education into classroom teaching.
A related initiative is the World Heritage Marine Programme, including three pilot projects each containing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and small islands:
- Central Pacific Islands and Atolls
- Southern Caribbean Islands Group
- Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape
Among activities in 2006, a Caribbean Regional Training Workshop on Marine World Heritage (St Lucia, 27 February-3 March ) aimed at training personnel from national authorities and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in recognizing and protecting marine World Heritage values in the Caribbean.
Further background is provided in a listing of World Heritage sites with significant marine components
Other pipeline activities include capacity-building in heritage conservation (e.g. training workshops and study visits in different SIDS regions) and building knowledge of potential World Heritage through such activities as the mapping of biodiversity hotspots (e.g. in the Pacific).
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