Welcome speech

by Ms Mechtild Rössler, UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Dear participants and experts from States Parties,
Invited Guests,
Dear Ms Aasen,
Dear Mr van Klaeveren,

It is a great pleasure for me to open this meeting on behalf of the World Heritage Centre and I would like to transmit most cordial greetings from the Director of the World Heritage Centre, Mr Bandarin, who regrets deeply not to be with us today.

First and foremost my thanks go to all of you who travelled a long way to come to this very first meeting on World Heritage in the Arctic. My profound gratitude goes to the two organisations that made this event possible, the Prince Albert II Foundation of Monaco for the substantive funding and the Nordic World Heritage Foundation for the organisation and logistic support.

We very much hope to continue this excellent cooperation in the future for Arctic World Heritage, and for the communities who currently live here as well as future generations.

I also express my thank you to the Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) meeting of the Arctic Council through which we benefited from expertise and some of the participants who were able just to extend their stay for two additional days. It enabled us also to familiarise ourselves with specific issues including ecosystem monitoring, global networks, human and health development, climate change, risk assessments and scientific research priorities also important for our expert meeting here.

Let me also point out that we are at a turning point in the history of the World Heritage Convention with this first meeting on the Arctic Heritage. As you all know, it was only in 2004 that the first two natural sites were inscribed, a few cultural properties were inscribed before and today we have the first arctic meeting, despite 35 years of implementation of the Convention behind us. This huge territory belongs to 8 States Parties to the Convention, but it also belongs to the heritage of humankind and requires joint action to face the challenges of the 21st century including global climate change and many other important issues for the safeguarding of our cultural and natural heritage and its future sustainability.

I am happy to inform you that 3 of the 8 countries present here are members of the World Heritage Committee and can take this effort and your focussed recommendations forward at the next session in Quebec, Canada in July 2008.

I count on all of you to assist UNESCO in being able to address these challenges and to enhance global World Heritage conservation though joint action and new collaboration.

Thank you very much.