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Development of Policy Document on Impacts of Climate Change and World Heritage (2006)

At its 30th session in July 2006, the World Heritage Committee endorsed the report on "Predicting and managing the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage" and the "Strategy to assist States Parties to implement management responses", which were prepared following a meeting of experts in March 2006.

The World Heritage Centre is taking the following action on the different elements of the decision of the Committee:

  • The Strategy and Report (as endorsed by the Committee) is being assembled into a publication in the World Heritage Paper series. It will also be put on-line in that format on the website of WHC for wider dissemination.
  • A compilation of case-studies on the subject of "Climate Change and World Heritage" is also being prepared. Currently, the draft text has been sent to all those States Parties whose sites are proposed to be featured in the publication, for review and comments. Suitable photographs and other illustrations are being identified for inclusion in the publication.
  • A pilot project is being developed for accessing UNEP-GEF funds for vulnerability assessment and adaptation work in selected natural World Heritage sites of Indonesia.

One of the more substantive follow-up actions to be taken on the Committee's Decision 30 COM 7.1 is the preparation of a "Policy document" on the subject, in consultation with various stakeholders (see specifically paragraph 13 of the decision). For this purpose, a two day meeting of a small group of experts, practitioners and other relevant organisations and individuals is planned to be organized on 5 and 6 February 2007 in UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The State Party of the Netherlands has kindly offered to support this meeting and associated process.

In preparation for the proposed meeting, a draft of the policy document, in consultation with relevant experts and organizations, is being developed. This draft will be discussed and finalised by the experts at the meeting; the new draft emanating from this meeting will again be sent out to a wider group for review, in keeping with the Committee's decision.

On the issue of synergies between conventions on this issue, UNEP's Issue-based Modules (IBM) Project is being researched to help prepare a section for the draft policy document. The Advisory Bodies will help in identifying future research needs in the area of climate change and World Heritage.

Decisions / Resolutions (2)
Code: 42COM 7

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/18/42.COM/7, WHC/18/42.COM/7A, WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add, WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/18/42.COM/7B and WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add and WHC/18/42.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 40 COM 7 and 41 COM 7, adopted at its 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
  3. Thanks the State Party of Bahrain for having organized a World Heritage Site Managers Forum (Manama, 2018), as a capacity-building exercise aiming at increasing the understanding of the World Heritage decision-making process among site managers, in order to achieve a more effective protection of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV); acknowledges the importance and benefit of this Forum and considers that it should be convened in conjunction with all future sessions of the World Heritage Committee;
  4. Takes note of the Statement of Participants to the Forum and encourages States Parties to support the participation of their respective site managers to future fora and other capacity-building opportunities in order to enable them to provide appropriate information with regard to the management of their respective sites;

    Statutory matters related to Reactive Monitoring
    Reactive Monitoring evaluation

  5. Takes note with appreciation that the World Heritage Centre has launched an evaluation of the Reactive Monitoring process and thanks the State Party of Switzerland for its financial support to this activity;

  6. Notes with concern that some properties have remained on the List of World Heritage in Danger for more than ten years; this raises questions on whether the OUV has been maintained and requests the World Heritage Centre to establish an inclusive working mechanism for assessing the OUV of these sites, and to present a report during the 44th session;
  7. Urges States Parties along with other stakeholders to actively contribute to the evaluation of the Reactive Monitoring process to ensure this mechanism remains a valuable indicator and overview of the state of conservation of heritage;
  8. Also takes note that the Secretariat has prepared audio-visual communication and outreach material related to the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  9. Encourages all stakeholders of the World Heritage Convention to engage in the promotion of a better understanding of the implications and benefits of properties being inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and to develop appropriate information material in this regard with a view to overcome the negative perceptions of the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  10. Requests that the Reactive Monitoring Evaluation includes options for process improvements for sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in particular how actions recommended by Reactive Monitoring missions to assist States Parties meet their Desired state of conservation should be incorporated into the costed Action Plans decided by the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 41 COM 14;
  11. Further requests the World Heritage Centre develop a proposal, for sharing in the World Heritage Market Place, for funds to support a workshop to assist States Parties with sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger to develop and implement prioritized, staged and costed actions plans, and notes that these plans can be linked to requests for international assistance and shared in the Market Place;
  12. Recognizing the importance of focusing on those properties of greatest concern, recommends that, with effect from the 43rd session of the Committee, the World Heritage Centre considers geographical and thematic distribution of properties as additional criteria when determining which properties to open for discussion under Agenda items 7A and 7B;

    Dialogue with civil society
  13. Welcomes the continued interest of civil society organizations in the Convention, acknowledging the important contribution that can be made to the promotion and conservation of heritage on the ground and to capacity-building;
  14. Also welcomes the initiative of the World Heritage Centre to open the consultation processes related to the Convention to a larger number of stakeholders, including civil society;
  15. Takes note of the World Heritage Civil Society Workshop organized further to the initiative of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in March 2018, which discussed how civil society participation in the Convention, and specifically in World Heritage Committee sessions, can be further improved;
  16. Encourages again States Parties and civil society organizations to continue to explore possibilities to further civil society engagement in the Convention, both by contributing to enhanced conservation of heritage on the site and national level and by providing relevant input to the heritage related debate at the global level;

    Emergency situations resulting from conflicts

  17. Deplores the loss of human life as well as the degradation of humanitarian conditions resulting from the conflict situations prevailing in several countries, and expresses its utmost concern at the devastating damage sustained and the continuing threats facing cultural and natural heritage in general;
  18. Urges all parties associated with conflicts to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural and natural heritage and to fulfill their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of World Heritage properties and the sites included in the Tentative List;
  19. Also urges the States Parties to adopt measures against World Heritage properties being used for military purposes and to stop uncontrolled development;
  20. Also expresses its utmost concern about the impacts of conflicts causing an escalation of the already severe poaching crisis in central Africa, as armed groups are financing their activities through illegal wildlife trade, which is having a severe impact on wildlife populations, thereby degrading the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of natural World Heritage properties;
  21. Appeals to all Member States of UNESCO to cooperate in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects and illegal wildlife trade, as well as cultural heritage protection in general, including through the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2199 (2015), 2253 (2015) and 2347 (2017) and of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property;

    Emergency situations resulting from natural disasters

  22. Welcomes the efforts undertaken by the World Heritage Centre to implement the Strategy for Reducing Risks from Disasters at World Heritage Properties;
  23. Urges States Parties, in coordination with the World Heritage Centre, to give priority within international assistance in implementing emergency measures to mitigate significant damages resulting from natural disasters that are likely to affect the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties;
  24. Encourages States Parties and other stakeholders to further strengthen international cooperation aiming at mitigating impacts of major natural disasters affecting World Heritage properties and reducing vulnerabilities on lives, properties and livelihoods;

    Other conservation issues

  25. Thanks the Government of Poland for hosting the International Conference on Reconstruction “The Challenges of World Heritage Recovery” (Warsaw, 6-8 May 2018), providing a forum for review of specific case studies and understanding of the role of reconstruction in recovery, especially in post-conflict and post-disaster situations;
  26. Welcomes the Warsaw Recommendation providing clear principles on reconstruction and recovery and requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to broadly disseminate it among States Parties, World Heritage stakeholders and partner organizations;
  27. Also requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to continue the reflection and report back to its 43rd session in 2019 on the implementation of the Warsaw Recommendation;
  28. Encourages the ongoing cooperation with the World Bank and with United Nations agencies in addressing the challenges of World Heritage recovery and reconstruction;

    Climate Change

  29. Expresses its continued concern about the impacts of climate change on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of World Heritage properties and reiterates the importance of States Parties undertaking the most ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and by pursuing efforts to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  30. Notes with appreciation the initiatives taken by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to advance work on the updating of the Policy Document on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage properties;
  31. Requests that the development of the updated Policy Document include consultation with States Parties, the Advisory Bodies and civil society, and be completed for consideration by the Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;
  32. Expresses its gratitude to the State Party of Germany for the organization of a workshop on World Heritage and Climate Change (Vilm, October 2017), to the State Party of the Netherlands for its generous support to the updating of the Policy Document and to the State Party of France for its generous support to the first global scientific assessment of climate change impacts on World Heritage-listed coral reefs;
  33. Thanks the Secretariat of the UNFCCC for its active participation in the above-mentioned workshop and inputs into the forthcoming broader Policy Document updating process;

    Absent or unclear boundaries

  34. Urges States Parties that still have properties with unclear boundaries and/or buffer zones to undertake the necessary mapping exercises to clarify their boundaries and buffer zones of properties at the time of their inscription, and submit those to the World Heritage Centre for subsequent examination by the World Heritage Committee;
  35. Reminds States Parties that any change to existing boundaries and buffer zones must be approved by the World Heritage Committee through the applicable procedures, as outlined in paragraphs 163-167 of the Operational Guidelines;

    Heritage Impact Assessments/Environmental Impact Assessments (HIAs/EIAs)

  36. Welcomes the increasing use of Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) to assess the potential impact of proposed development projects on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of cultural World Heritage properties, and encourages States Parties to use the HIA methodology for all developments within or otherwise affecting cultural World Heritage properties, as part of the accepted decision-making process;
  37. Stresses the necessity for HIAs and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to be proportionate to the scope and scale of projects, with simpler assessments being undertaken for smaller projects and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) for very large projects, and the necessity for assessments to be undertaken in a timely fashion and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as part of notifications made under Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  38. Reiterates that HIAs and EIAs should include a dedicated section examining the potential impact of the project on the OUV of the World Heritage property, in accordance with the existing ICOMOS Guidance and IUCN Advice Note;
  39. Notes that HIAs cannot be assessed as stand-alone documents and requests States Parties to ensure that when HIAs are submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies that they are accompanied by full details of the project to which they refer;
  40. Also welcomes the initiative of IUCN and ICCROM to develop further advice on impact assessment for cultural and natural heritage in the framework of the World Heritage Leadership programme with the support of Norway;

    Large scale development projects and Strategic Environmental Assessments
  41. Noting with concern that an increasing number of properties are threatened by large-scale development projects including dams, extractive industries, and transportation infrastructure, located both inside and outside their boundaries,
  42. Also noting that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) do not always allow for a broad enough assessment of the potential impact of these large-scale developments, nor an assessment of a broad enough range of options at an early enough stage in the planning process,
  43. Requests States Parties to ensure that the potential impacts of such large-scale developments on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of World Heritage properties directly affected or located within their zone of influence are assessed through Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) at an early stage in the development of the overall project, before locations/routes have been fixed and prior to any approvals being given;
  44. Recalling Article 6 of the Convention, also requests States Parties to systematically inform the World Heritage Centre, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, of any planned large-scale development projects in their territories that may impact on the OUV of a property, even if the property concerned is situated on the territory of other States Parties, and to ensure that these impacts are assessed as part of the SEA of the project concerned;

    Tourism and Visitor Management
  45. Acknowledging the contribution of sustainable tourism to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the positive impact it can have on local communities and the protection of World Heritage properties, nevertheless notes with concern that the number of properties negatively affected by inadequate visitor management and tourism infrastructure development continues to increase;
  46. Requests States Parties to develop Visitor Management Plans that assess appropriate carrying capacity of properties for visitors and address the issue of unregulated tourism;
  47. Encourages the States Parties to support UNESCO in its effort to develop an overall Visitor Management Strategy for World Heritage, with policy recommendations to assist States Parties in addressing the issues of unregulated and unsustainable tourism use and development, and to provide resources to UNESCO for the implementation of the Strategy;

    Impact of sports facilities and activities on World Heritage properties
  48. Welcomes the continued agreement between IUCN and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) aiming at integrating biodiversity considerations in IOC’s processes, and takes note of the Sport and Biodiversity guide launched by IUCN as the first in a series of reports that will provide guidance to the sports sector regarding its potential impacts on nature, including on World Heritage properties
  49. Also welcomes the World Rowing Federation (FISA) commitment to respect and preserve the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of natural and mixed World Heritage properties, and calls on other Sport Federations to consider making similar commitments, including for all types of World Heritage, both natural and cultural;

    Dialogue with the extractive industries and the finance sector on the “No-go Commitment”
  50. Takes note of the continued dialogue between the World Heritage Centre and the extractive industries on extending the “No-go” commitment to other companies;
  51. Welcomes the growing interest from the investment sector for the conservation of World Heritage properties and strongly encourages all banks, investment funds, the insurance industry and other relevant private and public sector companies to integrate into their sustainability policies, provisions for ensuring that they are not financing projects that may negatively impact World Heritage properties and that the companies they are investing in subscribe to the “No-go commitment”, and invites them to lodge these policies with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre;
  52. Requests the World Heritage Centre, in cooperation with the Advisory Bodies, to continue the fruitful dialogue with extractive industries and the investment sector, including reflections on how to make these commitments and policies publically available online to inspire other companies in these sectors to follow suit;

    Earth Observation technologies
  53. Noting that Earth Observation satellite technologies and spatial analysis tools have tremendously improved over the past decade and that they provide powerful additional means for decision-makers and stakeholders of the Convention to find comprehensive solutions to today’s global challenges for World Heritage properties,
  54. Encourages States Parties to make full use of such Earth Observation technologies for the early detection of activities potentially harmful to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of World Heritage properties, such as deforestation, mining, illegal fisheries, agricultural encroachment, etc. and to better understand trends and respond appropriately;

    Illegal trade in endangered species and the cooperation with the CITES Convention

  55. Reiterates its utmost concern about the growing impacts of the illegal trade in endangered species, which is affecting many natural World Heritage properties;
  56. Welcomes the increased attention to this threat and launches an appeal to all Member States of UNESCO to fully implement Resolution 71/326 of United Nations General Assembly on “Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife”, including through the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and with the full engagement of transit and destination countries;
  57. Also welcomes the continued fruitful cooperation between the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and the CITES Secretariat and invites the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to further strengthen this cooperation;

    Invasive species
  58. Notes with concern the important number of properties significantly affected by invasive alien species (IAS);
  59. Recalls its encouragement to States Parties to develop adequately-resourced IAS strategies that emphasize prevention and early warning and rapid response in World Heritage properties;
  60. Strongly encourages States Parties to incorporate IAS response strategies into climate change mitigation policies for World Heritage properties.

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Code: 30COM 7.1

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7.1,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7B.a adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Also recalling the submission in 2005 of four petitions by civil society and non-governmental organizations on the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage properties, complemented by an additional petition in February 2006,

4. Further recalling paragraph 44 of the Operational Guidelines,

5. Thanks the Government of the United Kingdom for having funded the meeting of experts, which took place on the 16th and 17th of March 2006 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and also thanks the United Nations Foundation for its support, as well as all the experts who contributed to the meeting;

6. Endorses the "Strategy to assist States Parties to implement appropriate management responses" described in Document WHC-06/30.COM/7.1, and requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to lead the implementation of the "Global level actions" described in the Strategy through extrabudgetary funding and also takes note of the report on "Predicting and managing the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage";

7. Encourages UNESCO, including the World Heritage Centre, and the Advisory Bodies to disseminate widely this strategy, the report, and any other related publications through appropriate means to the World Heritage community and the broader public;

8. Requests States Parties and all partners concerned to implement this strategy to protect the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity of World Heritage sites from the adverse effects of Climate Change, to the extent possible and within the available resources, recognizing that there are other international instruments for coordinating the response to this challenge;

9. Invites States Parties, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to build on existing Conventions and programmes listed in Annex 4 of Document WHC-06/30.COM/7.1, in accordance with their mandates and as appropriate, in their implementation of Climate Change related activities;

10. Also requests States Parties, the World Heritage Centre, and the Advisory Bodies to seek ways to integrate, to the extent possible and within the available resources, this strategy into all the relevant processes of the World Heritage Convention including: nominations, reactive monitoring, periodic reporting, international assistance, capacity building, other training programmes, as well as with the "Strategy for reducing risks from disasters at World Heritage properties" (WHC-06/30.COM/7.2);

11. Strongly encourages the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in collaboration with States Parties and other relevant partners to develop proposals for the implementation of pilot projects at specific World Heritage properties especially in developing countries, with a balance between natural and cultural properties as well as appropriate regional proposals, with the objective of developing best practices for implementing this Strategy including preventive actions, corrective actions and sharing knowledge, and recommends to the international donor community to support the implementation of such pilot projects;

12. Further requests the States Parties and the World Heritage Centre to work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with the objective of including a specific chapter on World Heritage in future IPCC assessment reports;

13. Requests the World Heritage Centre to prepare a policy document on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage properties involving consultations with relevant climate change experts and practitioners of heritage conservation and management, appropriate international organizations and civil society, to be discussed at the General Assembly of States Parties in 2007. A draft of the document should be presented to the 31st session in 2007 for comments.

This draft should include considerations on:

      a) Synergies between conventions on this issue,

      b) Identification of future research needs in this area,

       c) Legal questions on the role of the World Heritage   Convention with regard to suitable responses to Climate Change,

       d) Linkages to other UN and international bodies dealing with the issues of climate change,

       e) Alternative mechanisms, other than the List of World Heritage in Danger, to address concerns of international implication, such as climatic change ;

14. Considers that the decisions to include properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of threats resulting from climate change are to be made by the World Heritage Committee, on a case-by-case basis, in consultation and cooperation with States Parties, taking into account the input from Advisory Bodies and NGOs, and consistent with the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

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