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World Heritage Convention

Resolution 12 GA 14-23
Report by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee for the period 1998-1999

14. The President welcomed Israel as the 158th State Party. He asked if the Committee, composed of only 21 members, could continue to orient the implementation of the Convention in the name of the growing number of States Parties. He expressed his personal opinion that the time had come to study the possibility of increasing the number of representatives of States Parties within the Committee.

15. He referred to the fundamental issue of the representativity of the List and to the ongoing discussions (since 1992) to improve the existing imbalances in the framework of the Global Strategy. He stressed that during his mandate as Chairperson, he had not only drawn up action plans, but had tried to translate recommendations into concrete actions. He cited a Japanese proverb: “Even dust, if gathered together, can be transformed into a mountain”, and evoked the draft resolution that had been prepared by a working group he had created during the twenty-third session of the Bureau in July 1999.

16. He then referred to the five essential functions of the Convention:

The first function is to identify cultural and natural properties of “outstanding universal value” for inscription on the World Heritage List. He noted that the number of nominations submitted had increased exponentially over the past few years, taxing the ability of the Secretariat to process them, the advisory bodies to evaluate them and the Committee to decide on these cases with the attention and scientific rigour that each case merits. He appealed to the States Parties to support the objectives of the Global Strategy in the identification and nomination of sites to enhance the representativity of the World Heritage List.

17. As for the second task, which is to monitor the state of conservation of inscribed sites in co-operation with the States Parties concerned, he referred to similar pressures: during the past two years, over 200 state of conservation reports have been presented to the Bureau and the Committee.

18. When mentioning the third task of the Committee, which concerns the inscribed properties to include on the List of World Heritage in Danger he referred to natural calamities, man-made disasters, ill-planned public tourism which are among the most frequent causes of ascertained and potential threats to World Heritage sites. Many of these sites discussed by the Committee have not been inscribed on the List of World heritage in Danger. The ongoing examination of the Kakadu National Park in Australia is a case in point. The complexity of this case required the Committee to consider a wide range of issues: from uranium mining technology, to social and economic issues, wetland conservation and the fundamental rights and spiritual beliefs of indigenous peoples.

He congratulated his predecessor, Professor Francesco Francioni, for the exemplary manner in which he initiated the process of evaluation of Kakadu, and for his personal commitment in heading the UNESCO fact-finding mission. He referred to his decision to hold an extraordinary session of the Committee, devoted entirely to the case of Kakadu. Despite the considerable financial and human resources this implied, he believed that the credibility of the Committee was enhanced by the thoroughness of its examination and its decision.  

19. He underlined the fourth task of the Committee which is to determine the most effective use of the World Heritage Fund to assist States Parties in protecting their properties. During his term, the budget was further increased by another 14% to US$ 4,676,000 for 1999. Noting the absence of clear guidelines in the approval process to enable prioritization of the requests, he suggested the linkage of preparatory assistance and training grants to Global Strategy and to give priority to requests from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Least Industrialized Countries (LICs) which will be put before the Committee for their endorsement. He announced that the Government of Japan had made an exceptional contribution of US$ 300,000 for preparatory assistance to LDCs and LICs. He emphasized as Article 5 of the Convention states, that adoption of a general policy to give cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the Community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes, remain the key to World Heritage protection.

20. This brought him to the fifth task of the Committee, and perhaps the most important of all tasks, that of public-awareness building and education for World Heritage conservation. This task calls all to invest in intelligence. For without the understanding and support of the public at large, without the respect and daily care of the local communities, which are the true custodians of World Heritage, no amount of funds or army of experts will suffice in protecting the sites. In this connection he expressed his satisfaction that the Committee during his Chairmanship accepted the validity of traditional management regimes as a protection mechanism required in the fulfilment of the conditions for inscription.

21. He praised the efficiency and energy of the Secretariat of the Convention and impressed upon the General Assembly the Committee’s deep appreciation for the excellent work of the Secretariat, particularly the Director and the staff of the World Heritage Centre. He said that the World Heritage Centre needs to be strengthened with more staff and financial resources. He recalled that a Draft Resolution on the strengthening of the World Heritage Centre has been submitted to the General Assembly.

22. In concluding his report, he said that in this year as Chair of the World Heritage Committee, he has strengthened his conviction that it is not money that makes the world turn, but pride and dignity. His speech is attached in Annex I to this report.

23. The President of the General Assembly congratulated Ambassador Matsuura and expressed general satisfaction for the work accomplished during his mandate. It took note of the written and oral reports presented.

Summary Record of the 12th General Assembly of States Parties