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Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa, proposed by South Africa as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: detailed master plan, Environmental Management Framework, research, interpretation centre, special World Heritage site Trust, consultation mechanisms, creation of new job opportunities, World Heritage Convention Act.

Summary provided by State Party

The COH WHS is fortunate to enjoy high levels of political support and therefore budget allocations and operates within an environment that has clear legal protection mechanisms. Combined with this there are three other factors to which success can be attributed. Firstly, the COH WHS has been successful in protecting, preserving, interpreting and promoting the OUV of the Property primarily because an extensive master planning exercise was undertaken shortly after the listing of the site. The power of planning cannot be overemphasised.

The plan took two years to develop and involved extensive public participation. This detailed blueprint has allowed for progressive and planned implementation of strategic land use, roads and bulk infrastructure development, tourism infrastructure development and marketing, a clear framework for environmental decision making and environmental best practice and monitoring and evaluation. The watchword through the master planning exercise was "balance”. The vision from the master planning exercise remains relevant today "to achieve an acceptable balance in the World Heritage Site between the conservation of cultural and natural resources, access, education, and scientific research, the interests of those living and working in the area, and its use for the economic and social benefit of the population at large, within the framework of the World Heritage Convention."

Secondly the COH WHS has been successful at winning hearts and minds. The Property has always had a dedicated and passionate team who have been carefully and deliberately selected for their skill and commitment. The team has a diversified set of skills such as research, tourism development, environmental and conservation management, public participation, infrastructure planning and implementation, management of Public Private Partnerships, marketing, events and fund-raising. This team has been successful at lobbying and advocacy through a strong focus on delivery. The completion of two visitor centres only five years after being listed is a significant and visible achievement which speaks for itself. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is now an iconic destination. The COH WHS as an organisation also has exceptional internal management and documentation management systems.

Thirdly and most importantly, the COH WHS has demonstrated the value of building relationships and partnerships, it was clear that COH WHS team by itself would not be able to achieve all the goals set out in the master plan and from the outset there has been a deliberate strategy to create strategic relationships and partnerships to ensure that this site is protected for future generations of the world. Our partnerships with the University of the Witwatersrand, landowners, scientists, communities and other organs of State have required continued maintenance of relationships without which it would be impossible to do our work. It has been enormously valuable not to be directly responsible for managing scientific research on the site but to rather have the overall responsibility for development and management of the site.

While the systems that we have in place might not always be perfect our commitment to improvement keeps us motivated. In nutshell the messages that other sites can benefit from is 1) plan properly, 2) win hearts and minds 3) invest in your teams 4) invest in relationships with key stakeholders 5) strive for balance between conservation and social and economic benefits 6) delivery wins political support.

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.