VII.31 Galapagos National Park (Ecuador)
The Committee recalled extensive discussions at its eighteenth and nineteenth sessions, on the issues and threats facing the site and that the Bureau at its twentieth session considered the report of the mission led by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee (1-11 June 1996) to examine the situation of the Galapagos Islands. The Bureau, while recognizing the considerable efforts made, concluded that serious problems existed, such that immediate remedial actions were essential to safeguard the values of the World Heritage site and the surrounding marine areas.
As a follow-up to the Bureau's recommendations, letters were written by the Director-General of UNESCO and by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee to the President of Ecuador concerning the protection of the Galapagos and more specifically on the proposed "special legislation" for the Galapagos. This legislation was not adopted and further action would be required.
The Bureau at its twentieth extraordinary session took note of the report submitted by the authorities of Ecuador on 22 November 1996 (contained in Information Documents WHC-96/CONF.203/INF.2 and WHC-96/CONF.201/INF.23). The report provided an update on the situation of the Galapagos and steps to be taken by the Government of Ecuador. The report also addressed issues such as the restriction of immigration, the institutional strengthening, issues concerning the marine reserve, the preparation of a biodiversity management plan, as well as assistance from the Interamerican Development Bank.
The Bureau at its twentieth extraordinary session also considered the comments made by IUCN concerning the serious threats to the site which require long-term action and that placing the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger would support the efforts made by Ecuador and would mobilize additional international cooperation.
Several members of the Bureau stated that the requirements for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger stipulated in Paragraph 79 of the Operational Guidelines were met and concluded that the Bureau should recommend the Committee to inscribe the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. It was also said that this List should not to be considered as a "black list", but as a signal to take emergency actions for safeguarding and protection.
The Observer of Ecuador reiterated at the Bureau session the commitment of the Government of Ecuador to the preservation of the Galapagos Islands and recalled the great number of actions that had been taken by her Government. She informed the Bureau that the Delegate of Ecuador to the Committee would provide additional information at the twentieth session of the Committee. She indicated that her Government did not wish to see the site be included on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Bureau decided to transmit the above information to the Committee for action and to recommend the Committee to inscribe Galapagos National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Committee at its twentieth session discussed the issue at length. The Delegate of Germany reiterated the discussions held and the number of threats facing the site outlined in the mission report contained in Working Document WHC-96/CONF.201/INF.13. Several delegates recalled paragraphs 77 to 81 of the Operational Guidelines and Article 11 of the Convention and emphasized that the Committee had already waited for one year for actions to be taken.
The Delegate of Ecuador thanked the Committee members for their interest and support in the preservation of the Galapagos Islands and explained the actions that the new Government was taking in order to implement the recommendations made by the Committee. He emphasized that the President had set up a working group to prepare the 'Special Galapagos Legislation' and that his Government had established a Ministry for the Environment to coordinate and advance the policies related to the preservation of the islands. He requested the Committee not to include the Galapagos National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
After a lengthy debate considering different options, including inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger or giving more time to the Government to implement actions, the Delegate of Germany proposed the following text, which was adopted by consensus:
"The Committee decided to include the Galapagos National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger effective 15 November 1997, unless a substantive written reply by Ecuador is received by 1 May 1997 and the Bureau, at its twenty-first session, determines that effective actions have been taken"
The Delegate of France asked the Committee to put on record that this decision was taken on an exceptional basis, as such a decision would normally be beyond the prerogative of the Bureau.