Reflection on the election system of the members of the World Heritage Committee (2007-2009)

At its 13th session (UNESCO, 2001), the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention adopted Resolution 13 GA 9 for an equitable representation within the World Heritage Committee. This resolution invites States Parties to voluntarily reduce their mandate from 6 to 4 years and discourages States Parties from seeking consecutive mandates. It also confirms the allocation of "a certain number of seats" for States Parties having no property inscribed on the World Heritage List.

At its 15th session (UNESCO, 2005) by its Resolution 15 GA 9, the General Assembly requested the Secretariat, in cooperation with the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, to initiate a process to discuss possible alternative mechanisms to ensure a balanced geographical and cultural representation within the Committee, as well as a speedier and less complex voting system. The General Assembly also requested that these alternatives be presented to its 16th session in 2007.

Following this request, the World Heritage Committee, by Decision 30 COM 18B, decided at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006) to invite States Parties to submit written comments concerning document WHC-06/30.COM/18B. The results were presented at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) in Document WHC-07/31.COM/17.

At the close of discussions at the 31st Committee session, the Committee, in Decision 31 COM 17, expressed its willingness to discuss, if need be, the creation of a consultative group at the 8th Extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee in October 2007 at UNESCO Headquarters, which could present its results to the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Québec, July 2008).

Finally, at its 16th session (UNESCO, 2007), the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention decided to "intensify the examination of all possible alternatives to the current election system" and to establish an open-ended Working Group in order to make recommendations on this issue. As per Resolution 16 GA 3A, H. E. Mr. Kondo (Japan) was requested to chair this working group in his personal capacity and the World Heritage Centre to give the necessary support to the working group. This Working Group will then inform the World Heritage Committee of its work and deliver its final report to the 17th session of the General Assembly in 2009.