As 2019 begins, I’d like thank everyone who has made efforts to protect World Heritage sites, whether by taking action at a property, making a donation for site preservation, or just by being a thoughtful tourist.
2018 was a challenging year with many threats to World Heritage globally. In addition to specific threats ranging from logging to overfishing, from ill-advised development projects to dam construction, from intentional destruction to damage through growing conflicts in many regions, we also experienced further impact from global warming and climate change. Our site managers, who address many of these threats and try to mitigate the impacts, are among the heroes of World Heritage preservation.
During this year, we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first 12 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. Among them are such iconic sites as the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela (Ethiopia), the Historic Centre of Krakow (Poland) or Yellowstone National Park (USA). Today, we have many questions about the growing number of nominations and the increasing pressures on the system. We need to ensure that we have a global list of sites with recognized Outstanding Universal Value which are effectively managed and ready to be handed on to generations to come.
We have also embraced success with the removal of sites from the List of World Heritage in Danger. One of the most moving moments of the year was when Madison Pearl Edwards, a 12 year-old girl from Belize, spoke at the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee in Bahrain about what it meant to her and her generation to have been part of saving the Belize Barrier Reef. We should celebrate our successes more—this is why we have decided to dedicate an issue on success stories in World Heritage conservation for the next World Heritage Review.
We truly hope that you continue to support World Heritage, wherever you are!
My very best wishes for 2019.
Dr Mechtild Rössler
UNESCO World Heritage Centre