The Pacific region and marine sites are underrepresented on the World Heritage List. Despite its huge potential and importance, the Pacific region has only a handful of sites among the 788 World Heritage sites. A World Heritage Marine Biodiversity workshop, held in 2002 in Vietnam, identified and recommended several tropical marine areas with high biodiversity for World Heritage status. The workshop also identified several opportunities for serial and transboundary nominations and requested recognition of the immense importance of the Pacific for the protection of the World's biodiversity. As a follow-up of the Vietnam workshop, the World Heritage Centre has iniated projects to test serial and transboundary nominations to marine sites.
The Central Pacific World Heritage Project focuses on supporting a World Heritage nomination consisting of islands and atolls of Kiribati, Cook Islands, French Polynesia as well as the US Pacific territories. These atolls and islands function as refugia for migratory, resident, and breeding marine and terrestrial biota, especially seabirds; habitat for many endemic and endangered species; and illustrate evolutionary stages of volcanic subsidence and corresponding reef growth culminating in the formation of the largest biogenic structures on earth.
The first workshop of the Project was held in Honolulu 2-6 June 2003 to review the natural and cultural features of various proposed atolls and islands; discuss practical and economic considerations for long-term management of remote, trans-boundary island areas of several States Parties; and agree on a set of provisional sites and actions to further develop this project. As a follow-up it was suggested that a national workshop be held in Kiribati. The objectives of the Kiribati workshop are presented below.
- Provide general overview on the functioning of the World Heritage Convention and the process needed for a successful World Heritage designation.
- Inform the participants about the Central Pacific World Heritage Project and the steps taken so far within the Project.
- Reconfirm the inclusion of already proposed areas by the previous Government of Kiribati and discuss what other national protected areas could potentially be included in the World Heritage nomination by Kiribati.
- Establish a national action plan to follow-up the World Heritage nomination process in Kiribati.
- Identify the support Kiribati would need to prepare a World Heritage nomination and sustainably manage the proposed areas based on the values for which the nomination is proposed.
- Identify partners who could assist Kiribati to achieve the above-mentioned objectives.
- Discuss on the overall strategy and potential next steps to move forward with the Central Pacific World Heritage Project in all the participating countries.