Belize agrees to Chart Road Map solving Critical Conservation Issues to remove Belize Barrier Reef from Danger List
Following a week-long constructive discussion with UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and IUCN, the government of Belize agreed to start talks on critical conservation challenges related to the removal of the Belize Barrier Reef from the World Heritage List in Danger.
From 19-23 January 2015, UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, in cooperation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), undertook a technical support mission to Belize with the objective of assisting the government in its efforts to prepare a road map for the removal of the Belize Barrier Reef from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Honorable Prime Minister Dean Barrow welcomed the UNESCO representatives and expressed his willingness to chart a course forward on key management requirements for a sustainable future for the reef. Prime Minister Barrow confirmed government’s policy position to prohibit oil exploitation within and adjacent to the protected areas in the Belize Barrier Reef System.
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef system in the world and forms part of a prestigious collection of iconic places listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The 1972 World Heritage Convention is aimed at ensuring that the exceptional values for which these sites are listed endure through government transitions so future generations can continue to enjoy them the same we do today. The Belize Barrier Reef was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 because of concerns on the sale, lease and development of mangrove islands and the absence of a solid regulatory framework aimed at ensuring its exceptional and unique values remain. Furthermore in 2010, the World Heritage Committee expressed its serious concerns about the potential for oil developments within and immediately adjacent to the iconic World Heritage site.
The mission was organized on the request of the Government of Belize as a follow up of the decision on the Belize Barrier Reef adopted by the World Heritage Committee (Decision 38COM7A.31) at its last session (Doha, 2014) and through the coordination of the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. Discussions were held with a wide cross spectrum of fisheries and tourism stakeholders, site managers and government officials. The mission also included a field visit to the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, one of the seven components that make up this unique World Heritage site. The mission resulted in a draft proposal for a Desired State of Conservation for removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger and includes a suggested set of targets and time frame.
The technical support mission built on initiatives from the World Heritage Centre and UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme to increase management effectiveness by using spatial planning approaches as a key-tool in marine conservation. The technical mission was made possible through the financial support of the Government of Flanders (Belgium).
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document Belize,
- Recalling Decision 37COM 7A.16 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Commends the State Party for the progress achieved in the implementation of certain corrective measures, particularly those regarding expansion of no-take zones and eradication and control of invasive species; and for its efforts undertaken to control unauthorized development activities and eliminate their impacts on the property;
- Urges the State Party to establish, as a matter of priority, a legislative instrument that will guarantee permanent cessation of the sale and lease of lands throughout the property and a clear definition and strict control of development rights on existing private and leased lands;
- Welcomes the State Party’s commitment to finalize the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, the Land Use Policy Implementation Plan, the National Protected Areas Bill and the Fisheries Resources Bill by the end of 2014, and requests the State Party to submit copies of these documents to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015;
- Expresses its serious concern about the State Party’s statement that it is not prepared to eliminate all oil concessions within and adjacent to the property and reiterates its position that oil exploration and exploitation within or affecting the property is incompatible with its World Heritage status, and also urges the State Party to remove any oil concessions that could have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
- Also requests the State Party to ensure that the Petroleum Exploration and Development Framework clarifies that petroleum concessions overlapping on the property will not be permitted, and that no oil exploration or exploitation will be allowed to take place outside the property, in particular within its outer boundaries, if it is likely to have a negative impact on its OUV;
- Further urges the State Party to prepare, as a matter of priority and in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, a draft proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
- Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property, including progress made in implementing corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
- Decides to retain the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.