Following the kind invitation of the World Heritage Centre, I had the great pleasure to attend the meeting entitled "Follow-up to the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting in the Arab States: Regional Meting for the Elaboration of the Regional Programme", held in Rabat (Kingdom of Morocco), from 7 to 9 March 2011.

This meeting was a unique opportunity for me, as Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, to participate in the discussions built on the first results of the Periodic Reporting Excercise in its new formula, after the two-year reflection period which led to the elaboration of a more comprehensive questionnaire and a substantial improvement of the implementation of this highly important tool for the Convention.

I would like to congratulate all the participants for the quality of the work achieved and highlight the role played by the fact that the same Focal Points which were appointed at the very beginning of the Peridoic reporting Exercise in December 2008 were present in Rabat this year.

I congratulate the States Parties of the Arab Region for having ensured such a continuity and invite the other regions to adopt the same approach.

Among the numerous interesting outomes of the meeting held in Rabat, I would like to focus on a proposal which I think has a potential to reinforce the implementation of the Convention: the establishment of National Committees for World Heritage. This measure, for which each State Party is free to define the appropriate structure, could substantially improve the application of the Convention and the cooperation of the States Parties with the World Heirtage Committee and the World Heritage Centre. I therefore invite the States Parties of the Arab Region to consider the establishment of such committees and not to hesitate to refer to similar initatives carried out elsewhere in the region or in the world.

I also would like to share my high satisfaction regarding the important space given to the World Natural Heritage in this meeting. Many natural heritage experts from the region as well as specialized UNESCO staff in this field and IUCN provided substantial contribution to the discussions. They conducted a working group on this subject and came up with very useful recommendations and guidelines to reinforce the protection of natural properties of Oustanding Universal Value in the region.

Finally, I would like to send my best wishes to the regions which are currently dealing with the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting as well as those which will do so very soon.

Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa

Chaiperson of the World Heritage Committee