Nine new members have been elected to the 21-member World Heritage Committee in charge of implementing UNESCO's Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, China, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Sweden were elected for four-year terms. The election took place during the General Assembly of the 184 States Parties to the Convention who meet every two years, when their representatives come to UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris to attend the Organization's General Conference.
The current members of the World Heritage Committee are: Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States of America.
The new members were elected to replace nine States Parties whose term on the World Heritage Committee had expired: Benin, Chili, India, Japan, Kuwait, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, and the Netherlands.
The World Heritage Committee meets every year to inscribe properties on the World Heritage List which currently numbers 851 sites in 141 States Parties. The Committee also reviews the state of conservation of inscribed properties and determines actions to support their safeguarding.
The General Assembly of the States Parties was opened by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, who described World Heritage as one of UNESCO's flagship activities. He went on to invite Member States to work for harmonious synergy among the Organization's three main legal instruments for cultural diversity: the World Heritage Convention of 1972; the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2003; and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO in 2005.
The Director-General also emphasized plans to increase the involvement of the Science Sector of UNESCO in the operations of the World Heritage Centre. The Assistant Director-General for Natural Science, Walter Erdelen, later spoke of the need to develop the complementarity of science and culture, notably in the 80 sites which carry the twin labels of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and World Heritage.
On the same subject, the Assistant Director-General for Culture, Françoise Rivière told States Parties of the need to reinforce the link between biodiversity and cultural diversity and to improve interdisciplinarity which, she pointed out, already exists, notably when space technology is used to monitor the state of World Heritage Sites.