World Heritage and Indigenous Peoples

The idea of a World Heritage Indigenous Peoples Council of Experts (WHIPCOE) was presented to the 24th session of the World Heritage Committee in Cairns, Australia by representatives from Australia, Canada and New Zealand who had attended a Forum of Indigenous People in Cairns on 24 November 2001.

The initiative was taken in response to the concern of indigenous peoples to their lack of involvement in the development and implementation of laws, policies and plans for the protection of their knowledge, traditions and cultural values which apply to their ancestral lands, within or comprising sites now designated as World Heritage properties.

Following on from the discussions in Cairns, an Indigenous Peoples Working Group with representatives from Australia, Canada and New Zealand further developed the idea in a paper that was presented to the 25th session of the Bureau of the Committee held at UNESCO Headquarters in June 2001. (Report on the Proposed World Heritage Indigenous Peoples Council of Experts).

In June the Bureau paid tribute to the work of the Indigenous Peoples Working Group, debated the issue and recommended that the proposal to establish WHIPCOE be considered by the 25th session of the World Heritage Committee in Helsinki in December 2001. (Debate of the Bureau)

Due to the interest expressed by many Delegates and Observers at the Bureau meeting, the Bureau established a new Working Group composed of representatives from Australia, Belize, Canada, Ecuador, the United States of America, ICOMOS, IUCN, ICCROM and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The Bureau requested that the Working Group hold a workshop to further discuss the proposal to establish WHIPCOE. The workshop will be hosted by Parks Canada in Winnipeg, Canada, 17-19 September 2001.

The broad objectives of the workshop are:

  1. To define the term indigenous people for WHIPCOE.
  2. To provide a forum for discussion and understanding of the value added by WHIPCOE; define the interaction of WHIPCOE with IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM and the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity; and how interaction this will be achieved.
  3. To further define roles and responsibilities of the WHIPCOE including “rules of inclusion” for State Parties and indigenous people related to numbers for each party, processes for the operation of the council, and outline long term funding issues and approaches.
  4. To reach agreement on the next steps in the process of seeking approval and establishment of WHIPCOE.


In August 2001, at the request of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee, a Circular letter was sent to all States Parties to the World Heritage Convention and the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN) requesting comments on the proposal to establish a World Heritage Indigenous Peoples Council of Experts (WHIPCOE) and on other initiatives relating to World Heritage and Indigenous Peoples. Comments on the WHIPCOE proposal and on other initiatives relating to World Heritage and Indigenous Peoples should be sent in writing, in English or French to the World Heritage Centre by 17 September 2001.