Paris - UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will hold its annual meeting from November 30 to December 5 in Kyoto (Japan) at the close of which it will inscribe new cultural and natural sites on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Alongside the 22nd session of the Committee, UNESCO is organising another event in Japan the International World Heritage Youth Forum (November 22-29) in Osaka, and is participating in a 3-day session on Virtual World Heritage at the VSMM Conference in Gifu Prefecture (November 18 - 20).
The intergovernmental World Heritage Committee includes 21 States Parties elected by the General Assembly of the 156 States Parties to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, November 16, 1972) for a term of six years. The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the Convention and determines the inclusion of sites on the World Heritage List on the recommendation of two advisory bodies the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), for cultural sites; and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), for natural sites. Moreover, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) is mandated to provide expert advice on monument restoration and organises training for specialists.
The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage presently protects 552 sites of "outstanding universal value," in 112 countries. With 156 Member States, the Convention is one of the international instruments which brings together the largest number of states. It is the only international instrument for the protection of both cultural and natural sites and it encourages co-operation among nations for the protection of their common heritage.
By adhering to the Convention, States are committed to ensure the preservation of those sites which they themselves have nominated and which have been included on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee examines reports on the state of conservation of listed sites and requires the States Parties to take corrective measures when they are not managed properly. States concerned must also adopt legislative and regulatory measures to protect these sites.
The World Heritage Committee allocates subsidies provided by the World Heritage Fund. It can also provide emergency financing to make possible repairs to man-made or naturally incurred damages. The Committee also facilitates technical co-operation - expert intervention and material assistance - and personnel training. The World Heritage Fund receives US$4 million annually in obligatory and voluntary contributions from States Parties and funding from the private sector.
The International World Heritage Youth Forum, held ahead of the Committee meeting, will bring students and teachers from Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean to Osaka, the second largest city of Japan, and to two World Heritage sites Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped,Yakushima, an island with the oldest living trees on earth, and to Nara, with its famed temple architecture.
At each of these main venues, the students (aged 13-18) will interact with young people from local schools. Activities will include panel discussions between experts and the students on a theme particular to each site. The students also will discuss the role of young people in World Heritage conservation from a variety of perspectives notably peace, identity, tourism, environment, inter-cultural exchange and local community involvement. Teachers from throughout the world will be invited to examine the new UNESCO World Heritage Educational Resource Kit and to discuss ways of introducing and developing the concept of World Heritage education in secondary schools world-wide.
The International World Heritage Youth Forum in Japan is organised by UNESCO in co-operation with the Osaka Junior Chamber. It follows the first International World Heritage Youth Forum held in Bergen, Norway, in June 1995, and subsequent regional forums held respectively in Dubrovnik, Croatia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in 1996; and Beijing, China, in 1997.
A separate event, the international conference "Virtual Systems and Multimedia ‘98 (VSMM 98)" organised with the support of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre ahead of the annual Committee meeting, will include for the first time a theme on World Heritage. Co-chaired by Alonzo Addison and Minja Yang, its lectures and workshops will focus notably on such themes as the use of virtual reality applications for architectural and artefact restoration, planning and simulation, 3D geography and remote sensing, as well as education, tourism, entertainment and historical information presentation. Participants at the Virtual World Heritage Workshops will work towards establishing an international body to work directly with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and assist in the development of World Heritage virtual reality applications.