A UNESCO mission has confirmed serious threats to the Galápagos National Park and Marine Reserve and welcomed ambitious measures announced by the Ecuadorian authorities to preserve the site on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
The mission confirmed the threat to the outstanding value and physical integrity of this iconic World Heritage site mainly from: the growing encroachment of invasive species, increasing human immigration, uncontrolled development of tourism, and the failure of various institutions and agencies to deal with these threats.
The mission was carried out in keeping with a decision by the World Heritage Committee to take stock of the situation in the Galápagos Islands, and at the invitation of the Ecuadorian government. Held from 8 to 13 April, it was led by Tumu te Heuheu, Chairman of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, Kishore Rao, Deputy Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, and Berndt von Droste of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The full findings of the mission will be presented to the World Heritage Committee, in charge of implementing UNESCO's World Heritage Convention, at its next meeting, which will take place in Christchurch, New Zealand, from June 23 to July 2. The Committee will review the findings of the mission and agree on actions to help ensure the long-term conservation of this site, including the possibility of inscribing it on the List of World Heritage in Danger (see http://whc.unesco.org/en/guidelines/ paragraphs 177-191 for technical details).
During the visit, members of the mission took part in a multi-stakeholder meeting convened by the Government of Ecuador with the participation of, notably, the ministers and vice-ministers in charge of the environment, multilateral relations, and tourism; the governor of the Galápagos Province and the Mayor of Santa Cruz. The mission also held bilateral meetings with various stakeholder groups and visited some of the key institutions and agencies.
Upon its return to Quito on 12th April, the UNESCO mission met the Minister of External Relations, the Minister for Environment, the Minister for Tourism, the Minister for Internal and External Security, and other senior officials including representatives of intergovernmental, non-governmental and bilateral cooperation agencies.
The mission welcomed the decisive action taken by the President of Ecuador to address comprehensively the long-standing problems of the Galápagos Islands, with a series of new policies to be adopted in the coming two weeks.
A photogallery is available here.