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The twenty-first session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 23 to 28 June 1997. The seven Bureau members, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco and Niger, were joined by observer delegations from thirty-seven other States Parties, as well as representatives of the Advisory Bodies.
The agenda included an examination of the financial audit recently undertaken by an outside auditor at the request of the Committee. The Bureau agreed that a workshop between the Auditors, the Consultative Group, and the Secretariat would take place at the time of the General Assembly of States Parties in October.
A substantial part of the meeting was devoted to an examination of Reports on the State of Conservation of properties on the World Heritage List. More than 50 such reports were presented. This report highlights some of the findings.
In particular, the Secretariat noted the increased concern over conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). In the eastern part of the country, where Virunga, Kahuzi Biega and Garamba National Parks and the Okapi Faunal Reserve are located, reports indicate that infrastructure has been destroyed and wildlife populations decimated. The Bureau requested the Centre and IUCN to contact relevant authorities of the new Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to arrange for a high-level mission to meet with senior officials to remind them of their responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention and to discuss restoration and rehabilitation of the country's five World Heritage sites. This mission should initiate project proposals in consultation with the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Implementation of some of the projects may be financed by emergency assistance from the World Heritage Fund. A long-term policy and strategic vision for World Heritage conservation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the main need at the moment.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India). The Bureau was informed of a report on Manas Wildlife Sanctuary from the Ministry for Environment and Forests transmitted via the Permanent Delegation of India, which notes that "Manas deserves to continue to be in the World Heritage in Danger List", as it helps to draw international attention to the site.
Iguacu National Park (Brazil). The Bureau noted that an alarming situation has recently developed in this Park which required urgent attention. A local organization is campaigning for the reopening of an 18 km road which was closed in 1986 to strengthen protection of the site. In early May, 800 people invaded the Park and set up camp to begin unauthorized work to re-open the road. The responsible conservation authorities have been unable to resist political pressures associated with this development and have not acted to contain the damage. The Bureau requested the Centre to urgently contact Brazilian authorities to encourage them to re-establish control over the section of the Park to close the road and to rehabilitate the damaged areas within the Park.
Galapagos National Park (Ecuador). The Bureau recalled that, at its twentieth session in Merida, the World Heritage Committee decided "to include the Galapagos National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger, effective 15 November 1997, unless a substantive written reply by Ecuador is received by 1st of May 1997, and the Bureau, at its twenty first session determine that effective actions have been taken".
Having studied both the report of the State Party and the report of IUCN, the Bureau came to the conclusion that such effective actions have been taken that the efforts of the Ecuadorean authorities should be recognized. The Bureau therefore decided that it would not be appropriate to include the Galapagos National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger at this time.
In order to enable the World Heritage Committee, at its twenty first session, to have a full picture of the up-to-date situation of the World Heritage Site, the Bureau asked the State Party to deliver a progress report by, 15 November 1997, on the nine issues outlined in the IUCN report of 3rd June 1997, as follows:
- Control of Residency
- Environmental management of populated areas
- Introduced species
- Marine reserve
The Bureau recommended the World Heritage Committee to ask the State Party for an annual progress report on the above mentioned issues from the end of 1998 until the end of 2002.
The Bureau further recommended that if the decrees of the Government of Ecuador are not reflected in law by the time of the twenty first session of the World Heritage Committee, scheduled in December 1996, in Naples, Italy, the Committee could once again consider adding the Galapagos to the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Canaima National Park (Venezuela). The Bureau noted with concern that this site faced considerable threats from a proposal of the national electricity company (EDELCA) to erect a series of power transmission lines, expected to extend 160 km across the Park, to supply power from the Guri dam to Brazil and to a mining site north of the Park. The traditional Pemon community who inhabit a portion of the Park are concerned that the power generation project will lead to increased mining and logging and hence are opposing the scheme. During recent years large scale mining operations have been started in areas outside of the Park and is resulting in significant loss of forests and pollution of rivers. INPARQUES, the national agency responsible for Canaima National Park have limited resources and have not yet intervened against the project proposed by EDELCA. An adequate environmental impact study had not been carried out and construction is expected to begin soon. It is not known whether funds for the completion of the power lines project have been guaranteed by either the Venezuelan Government or international donors.
The Bureau noted that the Committee, at the time of inscription of this World Heritage Site in 1994, had made several recommendations, including the finalization of the boundaries of the World Heritage area, which have not yet been implemented. Hence, the Bureau requested the Centre to transmit its concerns regarding the integrity of Canaima National Park to the Venezuelan authorities and discuss with them the feasibility of fielding a high level mission to Venezuela in order to gather information and discuss and resolve problems facing the conservation of Canaima National Park.
Butrinti (Albania). The Bureau expressed its great concern about the damages caused to Butrinti and the actual conditions of the site in terms of protection, management and conservation. The Bureau requested the Secretariat to undertake a mission to the site as soon as the security situation in Albania permits and to submit a report to the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-first session. This report should include an assessment of the damages to the site and the actual state of conservation, a recommendation whether the Committee should consider the inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger, as well as proposals for future actions in the framework of the World Heritage Convention and the resolution adopted by the Executive Board of UNESCO at its hundred and fifty-first session which "urges the Director-General, in close co-operation with the competent authorities of the Republic of Albania and in close co-ordination with the other international organizations concerned, to draw up a plan of action for the rehabilitation of educational, cultural and scientific institutions and the restoration of the cultural and architectural heritage in Albania.
Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (Germany). The Bureau commended the Minister for Science, Research and Culture of the Land Brandenburg for the detailed report on the state of conservation of the site and the actions that have been taken to preserve the Potsdam cultural landscape, but asked the German authorities for a further progress report by 15 October 1997 that could be presented to the Committee at its twenty-first session in Naples. The Bureau recommended that, on the basis of this new report, the Committee during its twenty-first session, examines if the threats to the World Heritage site still persist and if it still considers it necessary to inscribe the World Heritage site of Potsdam on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Kathmandu Valley (Nepal). The Bureau took note of the state of conservation report provided by His Majesty's Government of Nepal and expressed its appreciation for the progress made towards fulfilling the sixteen-point recommendation of the UNESCO-ICOMOS mission of 1993. While having noted improvements in the enforcement of building regulations in the Monument Zones of Bhaktapur, and Patan, the Bureau expressed deep concern over the continued demolition of historic buildings located along the circular street surrounding the Bauddha Stupa and the construction of new structures, including the new Buddhist temple, which do not conform to the building codes. In view of the alarming situation in the Monument Zone of Bauddhanath, and the persisting problems in the Monument Zone of Kathmandu, the Bureau wished to consider at its twenty-first extraordinary session to be held in November 1997, the placement of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. To enable it to make a sound recommendation to the Committee in this regard, the Bureau requested His Majesty's Government of Nepal to provide a full report on the progress made in each of the sixteen points of the 1993 UNESCO-ICOMOS recommendation.
Hadrian's Wall (United Kingdom). At the time of inscription the site was not defined by mapped boundaries. In response to increasing threats through tourism, development etc., English Heritage together with the authorities and landowners devised a management plan for the site. The Representative of ICOMOS underlined the exemplary nature of the management plan which ensures cooperation between all partners, a strategy for tourism management and provides a clear definition of the boundaries of the site. An extensive buffer zone has been identified along Hadrian's Wall and its associated sites. The plan further foresees the establishment of a database and periodic monitoring. The Bureau commended the authorities of the United Kingdom for the preparation of the management plan for Hadrian's Wall and for the clear delimitation of the site.
Fifty-eight new nominations were reviewed by the Bureau for recommendation to the full Committee. Since the Committee may either accept or reject the recommendations of the Bureau, the Bureau's conclusions are not reported at this time.
The meeting also adopted provisional agendas for the next sessions of the Bureau (28-29 November 1997) and Committee (1-6 December 1997), when both meet in Naples, Italy. At the suggestion of the Bureau, the Committee's agenda will include discussion linking World Heritage and the prevention of the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property.
The Observer of Thailand announced a voluntary contribution to the World Heritage Fund of $350,000 baht (approximately US$14,000).
The meeting ended Saturday, 28 June with the adoption of the final report by the Bureau. The report will not be released to the public until after the Committee meets at its 21st session in December.