Dear friends and supporters of World Heritage,
I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year on behalf of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
2016 was a year with many challenges: World Heritage sites were threatened by natural disaster, terrorist attacks and ill-advised infrastructure projects. Across the world, we saw cultural and natural heritage on the frontline of conflicts, fueled by violent extremism. Many sites around the world continue to be under serious threat in this turbulent time, and protecting our heritage is as difficult as it has ever been.
But we have also had many high points for World Heritage conservation, including the successful conclusion of the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee (July and October 2016), where the Istanbul Declaration called for the international community to come together to counter the threat of intentional destruction of cultural heritage. The rebuilding of 14 destroyed mausoleums in Timbuktu with local communities, and the historic decision by the International Criminal Court that the destruction of heritage as a war crime, illustrate how we must respond to such threats: by rehabilitating and restoring heritage and fostering expressions of identity.
World Heritage belongs to all of us. World Heritage embodies a revolutionary idea, a humanistic idea—the idea that people of all cultures and faiths can unite around heritage of outstanding universal value.
The protection of heritage demands clear frameworks, respect for peoples, time, and the very best of international expertise. Many sites and projects are in urgent need of financial support, and yet the resources of the World Heritage Fund are diminishing. We are counting on you to support World Heritage conservation in 2017. We can all play a part in protecting our heritage.
Make a difference: donate today to the World Heritage Fund at whc.unesco.org/en/donation
On behalf of the whole team at the World Heritage Centre and colleagues at UNESCO, we would like to thank you for your continuous support in safeguarding the world’s precious, irreplaceable and fragile cultural and natural heritage for the generations to come.
All the best for World Heritage conservation in 2017!
Dr Mechtild Rössler
UNESCO World Heritage Centre