Strengthening of the World Heritage Centre in 1994 and its Further Development
VIII.1 This item was discussed first by the Work Group 1, and then by the Committee on the basis of the proposals made by the Work Group. Some of its points were already raised, however, in the presentation by the Director-General's Special Adviser when presenting his recommendations on fund-raising and marketing (summarized in section XV of this report).
VIII.2 Although the shortage of time did not allow a real debate on this item, a number of speakers in Work Group 1 referred to work Document WHC-94/CONF.003/5. The Delegate of Italy reiterated his Delegation's statement, previously expressed at the plenary, that their legal experts had examined carefully the proposals contained in this Document and found them unacceptable. Recalling that the Centre had been established only two years ago and that its competences were regulated by Articles 14, 15 and 18 of the Convention, he reminded that the Centre was meant to be simply a Secretariat for coordination, monitoring of the Convention's implementation, information and cooperation with the States Parties in order to assure follow-up actions. The proposal put forward in the above-mentioned document, however, seems to lead on the contrary to a full autonomy of the Centre by giving it functional and administrative autonomy. The Italian Delegation is opposed to this for philosophical/political, juridical and administrative reasons. As regards the philosophical/political concerns, he said, all actions of UNESCO need to be united in order to achieve a major impact, and to allow better linkage among the great themes it is committed to, including the protection of cultural and natural heritage. To detach the Centre from UNESCO would weaken it precisely at a time when UNESCO's mandate and its message of peace, fraternity and mutual understanding needs to be strengthened in a world which is going through a difficult phase of transition, the breakdown of the previous sense of balance, and the precarious way to a new international order. Explaining the juridical implications, the Delegate of Italy reminded that according to Articles 3, 4 and 14 of the Convention, the Committee should express its advice on this matter. Furthermore, the examples given in the above-mentioned document, i.e., the institutional set-up of the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) and the International Bureau for Education (IBE), do not seem appropriate, as these have been established within the General Conference of UNESCO, which means that all Member States of UNESCO are included, and not just some, as is the case with the Centre. Moreover, the internal structure is quite different: the IIEP and IBE have each an administration council which, however, does not exist in the case of the Centre, as this is directly under the Director-General of UNESCO and is, as such, a simple Secretariat. Regarding the administrative aspects, the document compares the Intergovernmental Oceanographic commission (IOC) to the Centre, forgetting that this commission deals with oceans, which are beyond the States' sovereignty, while the Centre is responsible for the protection of cultural and natural heritage which is a matter of the States' sovereignty. In conclusion, he reiterated that the Centre belongs to the UNESCO Secretariat and serves as the Secretariat of the Committee. The Centre was created by the Director-General in order to facilitate better implementation of the Convention. In Cartagena, the Committee expressed its wish to have a stronger Centre, and nothing more than that. On that occasion the Committee stated that it would achieve better its goals by relating its activities to those stemming from other legal instruments and other UNESCO competent services. The Centre should therefore continue to: (i) coordinate the actions decided by the Committee with other related actions in UNESCO and other organizations, and (ii) ensure within this framework the services of the Secretariat of the Committee and of the General Assembly of the States Parties.
VIII.3 The Delegate of China stated that his country was in favour of a strengthened World Heritage Centre, and was therefore pleased with the Director-General's intention of giving functional autonomy to the Centre, and giving it support through a 'financial allocation', as expressed at the 145th session of the Executive Board. He felt that there need be no fear that the Centre may disassociate itself from UNESCO, since it would remain an integral part of UNESCO just like the case of IIEP and IBE.
VIII.4 While expressing his regret that such an important item was discussed only in the Work Group, and having endorsed the statement made by the Delegate of Italy, the Delegate of France said that his country is also in favour of a strong World Heritage Centre, but that this should by no means be understood as creating a unit which might lead to a separation from UNESCO, or to a modification in the terms of the 1972 Convention which foresaw the provision by UNESCO of a Secretariat to the World Heritage Committee. The evolution of the Centre should be administrative and structural within the Organization. Projects such as the Centre's current project on World Heritage education, which is carried out in collaboration with other units, is an example of intersectoral activities which should be encouraged. However, a private foundation cannot be created in the shadow of a Convention between States Parties, which is what appeared to be envisaged.
VIII.5 The Delegate of Germany also spoke in favour of a strong Centre, underlining however that the spirit and letter of the Convention must be fully respected.
Expressing his view that the statements made by Mr de Haes and Mr Badran on this matter gave conflicting messages on what the Centre's autonomy would imply, he reminded that the Committee cannot decide by itself on issues which may perhaps entail modifications of the Convention.
VIII.6 The Delegate of Japan expressed his support for an increased 'functional effectiveness' of the Centre, but felt that the Committee needed more information in order to decide about a future 'functional autonomy' of the Centre. He also wished to know how the Centre would cooperate in the future with other units within UNESCO should autonomy be granted, and what the UNESCO Legal Adviser's view on this were. Finally, he suggested that a detailed study on this matter be prepared for the Committee.
VIII.7 The proposal made by the Delegate of Japan was endorsed by the Delegate of Spain, stressing the comments made previously by the Delegates of France and Italy concerning the legal and institutional aspects of functional autonomy.
VIII.8 Replying to the debate, the Director of the World Heritage Centre reassured the speakers that the Director-General laid great stress on coordinating the Centre's activities with those of other units in the Organization. He reminded that the Director-General had created to that effect a Steering Committee, chaired by the Assistant Director-General for Culture in the absence of the Director-General, the purpose of which is to provide guidance to the Centre and other units in matters of heritage protection. The Centre is under the authority of the Director-General and its staff is appointed by him in conformity with Article 14 of the Convention. Should there be any changes, these can be carried out only in strict respect of the Convention. He confirmed readiness to prepare an in-depth study on the question and proposed to contact the Representatives of, for example, Italy, France, China and the United States of America, in order to see how the Centre's functioning could be improved. He also suggested that the Centre prepare a detailed document which would express the different views expressed by the States Parties. Finally, Mr von Droste reiterated that the Centre has been created within UNESCO to coordinate World Heritage activities, and that some progress has been achieved in this sense. What is now important is that the General Conference at its 28th session approves a staffing table for the World Heritage Centre which would make it unnecessary to use the World Heritage Fund for supporting staff positions.
VIII.9 Following this statement, the Chairman of the Work Group, Mr Rob Milne, proposed that the Group express its appreciation to the Director-General for having strengthened the staff of the Centre in response to the Committee's request expressed last year at the session in Cartagena.
VIII.10 The Committee addressed this item in plenary when discussing the proposals made by Work Group 1. The Italian Delegation, endorsed by many other delegations, underlined that it was favourable to the strengthening of the Centre, provided that it is kept in mind that its autonomy is already defined by the World Heritage Convention, which expresses the sovereign will of the States Parties.
Arguments of legal, administrative and philosophical nature can be made against the 'proposal for the Centre's future as defined, among others by items 8 and 15 of the Agenda. However, given the time constraints, the Delegation of Italy expressed in plenary only the juridical (legal) aspects. In order to define the status of the Centre and the Secretariat one has to consider the following elements: creation, composition and functions. The Delegate of Italy then stated the following:
- "Foremost, Article 14 of the Convention affirms that the Committee is assisted by a Secretariat appointed by the Director-General of UNESCO;
- Secondly, the Centre, created at a later stage by the Director-General in order to assure the functions of the Secretariat to the Committee, has been made up of staff coming from two UNESCO sectors (Science and Culture) which are already entrusted the responsibility of the Convention's implementation;
- Finally, the same Committee has entrusted its Secretariat, through the World Heritage Centre, to ensure the coordination and information between the Committee and other UNESCO conventions concerned with the conservation of cultural and natural heritage.
The above-stated three elements reveal that the Centre is an integral part of the organization and of the Secretariat of UNESCO, and that any change of its legal status requires a new manifestation of the States Parties' will, which must be embodied in a new international agreement for the revision of the Convention.
A decision by the Committee therefore cannot be regarded as sufficient."