Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Indigenous communities engage in protection of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Tayrona National Parks

Friday, 14 April 2023 at 10:15
access_time 2 min read
© Joerg Steber/Shutterstock.com*

From 2020 through 2022, Colombia has undertaken a project aimed at developing a dossier in view of a future nomination of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1979. It is the world’s highest coastal mountain formation with two peaks at 5,775 metres above sea level and is home to a variety of ecosystems, topographical feature, and exceptional beauty. It is also the birthplace of the Tayrona indigenous civilization, whose descendants still live in the area with some 70,000 individuals belonging to the Kogui, Arhuaco, Kankuamo and Wiwa indigenous communities. They have a unique and complex worldview (cosmovisión) that is intimately connected to their relationship with their sacred ancestral territory, their traditions and their  languages, and their ancestral system of knowledge was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2022. That inscription recognizes the fundamental role played by this ancestral wisdom in protecting the Sierra Nevada ecosystem and avoiding the loss of the cultural identity of the four peoples of the region.

Indigenous communities play a crucial role in the conservation of the area. The project, funded by the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO, provided critical support to Colombia’s ongoing efforts to build up the conditions for the development of a draft nomination dossier in view of a future inscription of the site on the World Heritage List.  A community-based participatory process with local indigenous groups was developed, together with the capacity of Colombian national authorities and local stakeholders to protect and manage their unique heritage.

During the project, a draft World Heritage nomination dossier was prepared through extensive research, mentorship, technical assistance, critical analysis, consultations with indigenous and local communities and peer-to-peer exchanges. The Four Indigenous Peoples of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have been major stakeholders in the project’s meetings and workshops, where they could express their priorities, develop their capacities and share their knowledge. The project helped establish for the dossier the criteria needed for the potential “Outstanding Universal Value” as well as the requisite management plans that a World Heritage site would require.

This successful project can also serve as a source of inspiration and a good practice in the field of the participation and for the incorporation of indigenous knowledge and practices into World Heritage processes.