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Resolution 12 GA 30-48
Ways and means to ensure a more representative World Heritage List

30. Before introducing this point, the President referred to the notes sent to UNESCO delegations by France and Italy and wished to give the floor to the heads of the delegations of these countries so they could present their position. The Delegate of Lebanon, referring to Article 11 of the Rules of Procedure, raised a point of procedure relating to Resolutions and Amendments. The President then tabled working document WHC-99/CONF.206/5.

31. He recalled that at its twenty-second session, the World Heritage Committee inscribed this item on the provisional agenda of the twenty-third session of the Bureau. The document informs the General Assembly of the implications and development of the Global Strategy. It was examined and approved by the Bureau at its twenty-third session (Paris, 5-10 July 1999). He underlined its paramount importance because it addresses the issue of the Global Strategy.

32. He said that since the adoption of the World Heritage Convention in 1972, innumerable discussions have been conducted as to the means of ensuring the representative nature of the World Heritage List. He underlined that since 1979, disparities and imbalances have been pointed out. The predominance of western European monumental architecture in comparison to non-monumental architectural heritage of other regions has also been highlighted. The need to strengthen the protection of past and continuing interactions between humans and the environment has been stressed.

33. He referred to the June 1994 expert meeting organised by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS which established a methodology to remedy such disparities. The expert group defined a “Global Strategy”, a thematic methodology to redress the geographical, temporal, and spiritual imbalances of the List. The expert group also identified the following areas or themes whose investigation would help to improve the representativity of the List:

  • Human coexistence with the land (movement of peoples, settlements)
  • Human beings in society (human interactions, spirituality and creative expressions).

34. In December 1994, the Committee adopted the report of the expert group and it revised the criteria for inscription of cultural properties. The scope of the Global Strategy was extended from cultural heritage to include natural and mixed properties. He referred also to the category of cultural landscapes and recalled that the World Heritage Committee, aware of the changing definition of cultural heritage, had defined this category which is still under-represented on the World Heritage List.

35. He mentioned also that every year since 1995, the Committee has approved the organization by the World Heritage Centre of regional and thematic Global Strategy meetings and studies. A list of background documents concerning these Global Strategy meetings can be found in document WHC-99/CONF.206/INF.5. The advisory bodies (IUCN, ICOMOS) have contributed to the preparation of these meetings and publications.

36. He defined the objectives of the Global Strategy as follows “The Global Strategy is a framework and methodology for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It relies on regional and thematic definitions of categories of heritage that have outstanding universal value. Its aim is to ensure a more balanced and representative World Heritage List. It encourages countries to become States Parties to the Convention, to prepare tentative lists and to harmonise them, and to prepare nominations of properties from categories and regions currently under-represented on the World Heritage List”.

37. He then gave the floor to the Director of the World Heritage Centre who presented the process set in motion at the twenty-second session of the Committee, under the Chairmanship of Japan to “move from recommendations to action”.

38. The Director of the Centre recalled that by letter of 22 September 1999, he had transmitted all the working documents to the States Parties, requesting them to send him written comments on the draft Resolution. He referred to the only letter received, that from the Czech Delegation, dated 26 October 1999, of which he had acknowledged receipt. He then presented the main points of the draft project, stressing the following considerations: 

  • It is in the interest of all States Parties and advisory bodies to preserve the authority of the 1972 Convention, by improving the representativity of the World Heritage List, which should reflect the diversity of all cultures and ecosystem of all regions.  
  • Since the adoption of the Global Strategy by the World Heritage Committee in December 1994, to improve the representativity of the list, this objective has not been attained, despite the efforts of the Secretariat and the States Parties concerned.
  • To address these continuing deficiencies, the Bureau in July 1999 prepared the Draft Resolution for consideration by the General Assembly of States Parties.

39. He recalled that the 1972 Convention is a framework for international co-operation, he reaffirmed the sovereignty of States Parties, and underlined the importance of moving from recommendations to action, as decided by the Committee at its twenty-second session. He highlighted the following paragraphs of the Draft Resolution which had been prepared by a working group at the Bureau composed of the following members of the Bureau: Benin, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Republic of Korea; the following members of the Committee: Canada, Finland, France, Zimbabwe; the following observers: Belgium, United Kingdom and the Secretary- General of ICOMOS.

A. The General Assembly invites all States Parties to:

  • Integrate the protection of cultural and natural heritage into comprehensive planning programmes (Art.5 of the Convention)
  • Prepare or re-examine tentative lists by focusing on under-represented heritage
  • Prioritise categories highlighting interaction between humans and their environment, and humans in society
B. Invites States Parties with a substantial representation of sites on the World Heritage List to,

 On a voluntary basis,

  • Space voluntarily their future nominations; and/or
  • Propose only properties in the under-represented categories; and/or
  • Link their nominations with those of another State Party with under-represented heritage; or
  • Decide to suspend the presentation of new nominations; and
  • Inform the Committee of their choices.

C. Invites States Parties with under-represented heritage to:

  •  Prioritise nominations and tentative lists
  • Initiate regional partnerships based on the exchange of technical expertise
  • Encourage bilateral and multilateral co-operation to increase their expertise
  • Maximise their participation in World Heritage meetings

D. Invites the Advisory bodies to:

  •  Pursue programmes of thematic studies and classification of themes
  • Observe the greatest scientific rigor while evaluating nominations
  • Develop mechanisms to deliver training to experts in under-represented regions to prepare and evaluate nominations

E. Invites the World Heritage Committee to:

  • Continue its actions within the Global Strategy framework
  • Provide necessary resources from the World Heritage Fund to support the efforts of States Parties whose heritage is under-represented
  • Adopt regional and multi-year action plans to implement the Global Strategy
  • Evaluate, with all States Parties, progress in the Implementation of the Global Strategy
F. Invites the Secretariat of the Convention to:
  • Support States Parties with under-represented heritage in the preparation of tentative lists and nominations
  • Ensure that sufficient human resources are allocated for the implementation of the regional Action Plans

G. Invites the international community and the donor agencies to:

  • Support the protection of natural and cultural heritage and the 1972 Convention
  • Prioritise actions directed to the implementation of the Global Strategy in States Parties with under-represented heritage

40. Thirty-eight (38) States participated in the debate. All the speakers expressed satisfaction with the text adopted by the Bureau at its twenty-third session. They thanked the Chairperson of the Committee, the Chairperson of the working group and the States Parties. They stressed the pertinence of the draft resolution, its structure that identifies the responsibilities of each of the partners involved in the implementation of the Global Strategy, and the choice of the measures proposed which aim to improve the representativity of the World Heritage List.

41. Moreover many countries, following France which had been the first speaker in the debate, declared that the principles set out in the draft resolution, when adopted, can only take effect if they are supported by the political will of the States. Indeed, the draft resolution requests the States that already have a substantial number of sites inscribed to limit the rate of new nominations, to make a concentrated effort to help strengthen the co-operative mechanisms and international solidarity, and to assist countries without sufficient capacity to prepare their nomination files and ensure the management of their properties.

42. France’s opinion that a strategy must be developed with three main components: (i) definition of the objectives, (ii) establishment of action plans with timetables, and (iii) an evaluation procedure, found an echo amongst the speakers who affirmed the need to move from recommendations to action.

43. Although Austria and France were the only States to declare, for the former, that it had limited the rate of nomination proposals to one site per year, and for the latter, that it had decided to abstain from presenting new sites in 2000, many States whose heritage is still under-represented stressed the importance of international co-operation and, referring to activities for which they had received assistance from States with substantial conservation capacities, they thanked the donor countries.

44. During the debate, certain States put forward the principle of rotation within the Committee and congratulated France for having withdrawn its candidacy. The large majority of the speakers stressed the discrepancy between the number of States Parties (157) and the number of Committee members (21). Some speakers referred to Article 8.2 of the Convention “Election of members of the Committee shall ensure an equitable representation of the different regions and cultures of the world”, and requested an equitable representation within the Committee. Certain speakers evoked the possibility of reducing the length of the mandate of the Committee members.

45. At the end of the debate a draft resolution was adopted by consensus and without modification (the full text is contained in Annex II).

46. The President felt that a possible increase in the number of States members of the Committee, fixed at twenty-one, according to Article 8 of the Convention could make it necessary to revise this important legal instrument. He therefore invited the Legal Advisor to explain the procedure for modifying the Convention

47. Taking the floor, the Legal Advisor referred to Article 37 of the Convention which states that :

“1. This Convention may be revised by the General Conference of the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Any such revision shall, however, bind only the States that shall become Parties to the revising convention.
 2. If the General Conference should adopt a new convention revising this Convention in whole or in part, then, unless the new convention otherwise provides, this Convention shall cease to be open to ratification, acceptance or accession, as from the date on which the new revising convention enters into force.”

48. Taking account of the clarifications of the Legal Advisor and the debate on an equitable representation within the Committee, the President presented the following draft resolution that the General Assembly adopted by consensus:

"The General Assembly of States Parties:
Underlining the importance of an equitable representation of the World Heritage Committee and the need to increase the number of its members,

Taking into consideration the intervention of the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee on this subject,
Requests the World Heritage Committee:

a) to set up a working group to study this question and to submit proposals to the thirteenth General Assembly of States Parties,
to request the inscription of an item on the agenda of the thirty-first General Conference concerning this issue.”
Resolution Code
12 GA 30-48
Credibility of the World Heritage List
Summary Record of the 12th General Assembly of States Parties
Context of Resolution