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In October 2006 the World Heritage Centre published the UNESCO World Heritage Centre's Natural Heritage Strategy, which was endorsed by the World Heritage Committee. The strategy outlines the guiding principles, mission statement, strategic orientations, and working methods of all activities relating to Natural Heritage. In addition, the strategy highlights recent endeavours and achievements, as well as ongoing World Heritage programs and initiatives on Natural Heritage.
The World Heritage Centre (WHC) was established in 1992 to serve as the Secretariat for the World Heritage Convention. The creation of the WHC was timely, as the number of World Cultural and Natural Heritage properties continued to grow rapidly - there are currently 182 States Parties to the Convention and 830 World Heritage properties, and their numbers are expected to grow to over 1,000 by the end of this decade. The enthusiasm for the inscription of new sites is a positive indication of global political and public support for the World Heritage Convention.
The concept of Natural Heritage is defined under Article 2 of the Convention and further elaborated in the World Heritage Operational Guidelines, which also contain the specific criteria and conditions of integrity for assessing Outstanding Universal Value(s) of prospective World Natural Heritage properties. The WHC works closely with the technical advisory body, IUCN - the World Conservation Union to ensure the long term protection and conservation of inscribed natural heritage sites and their World Heritage values. This includes undertaking monitoring missions in cooperation with site management agencies to evaluate the state of conservation of World Heritage sites, providing technical assistance, and building capacity in the States Parties. In pursuance of these and other crucial tasks the Centre has increasingly attempted to mobilise international support from public and private sectors.
Over the past several years the WHC has been able to broaden its range of partnerships and intervention strategies and raise substantial extrabudgetary resources. The United Nations Foundation (UNF) has played a key role in this effort, and the major international conservation non-governmental organisations like Conservation International (CI), Fauna and Flora International (FFI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have figured prominently in the expanding range of activities carried out by the WHC. UNF support for biodiversity conservation has been and for the foreseeable future will continue to be a very important driver of the Centre's work on natural heritage. The WHC will continue to maintain a strong working relationship with its advisory body on natural heritage (IUCN) and all the partners who are involved in project implementation, and further diversify the nature of the collaboration.