The International Workshop and Expert Meeting "Starlight Reserves and World Heritage - scientific cultural and environmental values", was held in Fuerteventura, Spain from 10-11 March 2009, and attended by 32 participants and experts from 10 countries. Participants were representatives of private organizations, enterprises, the tourism industry, NGOs, scientific bodies and research stations, as well as international organizations including the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Ambassador Maria Jesús San Segundo, also participated in the International Workshop.
The Government of Fuerteventura, and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias provided generous support for the meeting.
The expert meeting was held in connection with the UN Year on Astronomy and as a follow up to the workshop on Science, Technology and World Heritage held in London, UK, in January 2008.
The meeting benefited from a key presentations and in-depth discussions on issues of heritage of astronomy and its conservation, light pollution and protected areas as well as the concept of "starlight reserves" of interest as tourist destinations. The expert meeting recognized the strong connections that exist between the cultural heritage of astronomy and the natural heritage of the dark night sky. It also recognized the crucial distinctions between tangible immovable, tangible moveable and intangible heritage categories.
The meeting noted that while starlight as such is not in danger, human ability to see the starlight is in increasing danger, due to light pollution and pollution of the air. Starlight, in this context, is an invaluable human and natural resource. Starlight includes the first-hand view of celestial objects, meteors, aurorae, eclipses, nighttime phenomena, and the view of the cosmos that often relies on natural light levels. It is a physical and intangible resource that all cultures recognize and draw meaning from.
The expert meeting concluded with a set of recommendations for consideration by the World Heritage Committee, States Parties, Member States of UNESCO, the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention (IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM), other UNESCO programmes as well as other UN organizations, scientific institutions and other relevant bodies.