Within the framework of the World Heritage Central Pacific Project, a workshop was held over the previous seven days on Kiritimati (Christmas) Island, Republic of Kiribati to plan for the nomination of reef islands and atolls of Kiribati to the World Heritage List. The World Heritage List was established by the World Heritage Convention, adopted by UNESCO in 1972 to profile and protect the Planet’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage. The proposed serial site from the Republic of Kiribati contains geologically ancient reefs islands and atolls that are globally significant for seabird, pristine coral reefs, and associated marine and terrestrial habitats. In the future, the properties from Kiribati could potentially be combined with other islands and atolls also scattered across the Central Pacific, belonging to the U.S., French Polynesia, and Cook Islands to form a single site on the World Heritage List.
The workshop was sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) and the Republic of Kiribati Ministry of Environment, Land, and Agricultural Development. According to Marjaana Kokkonen of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and conference convener, “The workshop was a huge success, representing an immensely important step forward towards the eventual inscription of these special places on the World Heritage List.” Hans Thulstrup from the UNESCO Regional Office for Pacific States continued, “There is a gap in marine ecosystems, small island nations and in particular those of Pacific island nations in the World Heritage List. The Pacific accounts for 40% of the Earth’s surface but is represented by only eight World Heritage sites: East Rennell, Hawaii Volcanoes, Henderson Island, Rapa Nui, Galapagos, Cocos Island, Lord Howe Island and the Great Barrier Reef.”
Several high-ranking Republic of Kiribati officials also attended the workshop, including the Minister of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development, Martin Tofinga and representatives of a variety of community groups ranging from bone fishing tour guides to the Old Men Association of Christmas Island. Honorable Tofinga said, “The islands and atolls tentatively being considered for nomination to the World Heritage List from the Republic of Kiribati are from the Line and Phoenix island groups, including parts of Christmas Island where the workshop was convened. The workshop was a great success, confirming to the local community the benefits of inscribing sites to the World Heritage List, and our collective recommendations will now be transferred to the Kiribati Cabinet for deliberation.”