World Heritage status signifies that a place is unique and irreplaceable. But the recognition comes with responsibilities.
As a condition for receiving the World Heritage designation, nations commit to safeguarding these sites of Outstanding Universal Value for future generations. Once a site achieves World Heritage status, its conservation is continuously monitored. The monitoring results inform the World Heritage Committee who holds nations accountable for their action (or non-action) to protect the special place for humanity. This oversight is carried out by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in collaboration with its Advisory Bodies and is the only such mechanism in the world.
State of Conservation Highlights
On 26 June 2018, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the world’s second largest coral reef, from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision followed an intensive period of landmark conservation action by the government of Belize including a permanent oil moratorium, new regulations for mangrove protection and measures to regulate unsustainable development.
In July 2019, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the Islands and Protected areas of the Gulf of California in Mexico on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Central to the decision is the current vulnerable situation of the critically endangered vaquita species. The vaquita population has declined drastically mainly due to the continued illegal use of gillnets to capture the endemic totoaba.
In May 2019, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN visited East Rennell in Solomon Islands to evaluate conservation progress of the site currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The mission team discussed avenues for sustainable livelihood development with the property’s local Chiefs and evaluated the impact from the recent oil spill.
At its 39th session in 2017, the World Heritage committee welcomed the progress made with the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability plan for the Great Barrier Reef, encouraged the government of Australia to accelerate efforts to meet the plan’s targets, and noted with serious concern the coral bleaching and mortality that affected the property in 2016 and 2017. The World Heritage committee is expected to review of the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef at its next session in 2020.
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