1.         Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) (N 196)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1982

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1996-2007, 2011-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Drafted, proposed for adoption in the draft Decision below

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4439

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1982-2015)
Total amount approved: USD 223,628
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 80,000 (in addition to approximately USD 100,000 of in-kind technical assistance) under the management effectiveness assessment project “Enhancing our Heritage”. 

Previous monitoring missions

2000: IUCN monitoring mission; 2003, 2006 and 2011: Joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN Reactive Monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 4 February 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/196/documents.

Lead by the Honduran institution in charge of forests, protected areas and wildlife (ICF) and a technical ad hoc Committee bringing together a wide range of sectors, the State Party has conducted a number of activities, summarized hereafter:

The ongoing lack of clarity in terms of which exact part of the vast biosphere reserve is formally recognized as the World Heritage property, is acknowledged. Furthermore, the State Party acknowledges limited human, financial and logistical capacity, partially compensated for by external support. The State Party has submitted an International Assistance Request focusing on this challenge. The request was approved by the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee in January 2015. The clarification of boundaries is also expected to enable the finalization of the DSOCR.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

Progress in addressing the many challenges the property is facing is noted. In particular, the improved availability of data on status and trends of deforestation and land use change and the further consolidation of an integrated monitoring system provide an encouraging foundation for future activities. Similarly, the ongoing efforts to further negotiate and clarify access to land and resources on the part of local and indigenous communities and the attempts to discourage illegal logging through the promotion of controlled forest management are plausible and promising.

The fundamental question mark remains about the exact extent and location of the formally recognized World Heritage property within the vast biosphere reserve exceeding 800,000 hectares. The forest loss reported by the State Party between 2010 and 2013 is alarming regardless of its location. Nevertheless, putting the figure formally in perspective of the World Heritage Convention requires the currently impossible determination of whether such loss has occurred outside or within the property.

It is worth recalling that the unchanged ambiguity of the boundaries and possible approaches to address it are described in detail in the 2011 mission report. The recently approved International Assistance Request focusing on this very issue is the adequate mechanism to move forward and clarity in terms of the exact boundaries and zonation of the property will also facilitate the ongoing efforts to define the draft DSCOR, which has been discussed and agreed with the State Party and will serve as a decisive structured framework to guide action towards the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger and to assess progress made according to measurable indicators. Ideally, the established monitoring system should be used in this regard. It is recommended that, following the clarification of the property’s boundaries, the DSOCR be revised and, if necessary, further complemented with additional indicators.

The eviction of settlers and livestock from the core zone of the property is sensitive and all care should be taken to ensure that this process is conducted in a peaceful manner. Such sensitive operations are likely to cast a shadow on the relationships between governmental actors and local communities. Further intrusions should be prevented so as to reduce the necessity of future operations.

The State Party provides no clear and updated information on the Patuca III project. Given the additional absence of clarity of the exact boundaries of the property, it is not possible to make a conclusive statement on the situation and its possible implications. It should be recalled that possible direct and indirect impacts were not adequately assessed in the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project. Once the boundaries have been clarified, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to assess potential impacts on the OUV of the property in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

Given the ongoing lack of clarity of the boundaries, the limited overall progress in addressing the multiple challenges, the limited human, financial and logistical resources and consistent evidence of security challenges, including in the State Party report, it is recommended that the Committee retain Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The following DSOCR has been developed by the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, and is proposed for adoption by the World Heritage Committee:

 
Timeframe for implementation:

The implementation of the corrective measures outlined in this draft DSOCR will have to be able to achieve in a maximum period of 17 years, if the necessary administrative and political efforts are met, as well as if it is possible to count on the international bodies’ support.

It is suggested to adopt the integrity and management indicators proposed by the State Party as provisional as they apply to the wider Biosphere Reserve and potentially will need to be refined once the new boundaries of the property have been adopted in order to ensure that all indicators are specific to the World Heritage property (see below, indicators 5-9). Further two indicators are proposed to be considered as optional as they are setting broad management goals. Those were moved to the end of the draft DSOCR (see details below).

 

 

INDICATOR FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE PROPERTY FROM THE LIST OF WORLD HERITAGE IN DANGER

REASONING

 

METHOD OF VERIFICATION

ATTRIBUTES

1

A proposal for boundary modification is submitted by 1 February 2016 and approved by the Committee at its 40th session in 2017

 

*The current draft DSOCR will need to be revised and, if necessary, completed with further indicators following the adoption of new boundaries

Clarification of the property’s boundaries is a long-standing issue and needs to be resolved as a matter of priority in order to be able to develop precise measures aimed at preserving the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The recently approved International Assistance Request will provide financial support to the State Party for the analysis of the current situation and development of a proposal for new boundaries of the property that would best represent and protect its Outstanding Universal Value. It also foresees provision of technical advice by IUCN. The main activities will take place during 2015 which should allow sufficient time for the preparation of the official proposal to be submitted by 1 February 2016. New design of the boundaries would provide a basis for refining the adopted indicators and, if considered necessary, the development of further indicators to be included in the draft DSOCR.

 

Submission and subsequent approval of the proposal for boundary modification

 

 

2

By year 2025, the actual percentage of the coverage of the broadleaf forest is maintained in the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (83%)

The analysis for the Reserve made in 2012 showed that the state of conservation of the broadleaf forest is good regarding its viability and considering its key attributes, and showing that the percentage of the actual cover in relation to the historic one was 83%. It is essential that the actual forest cover is maintained.

 

Multi-temporal analysis of the broadleaf forest cover (use of satellite images)

3

By Year 2025, 300 ha of degraded lands have been recovered in the core zone of the RHBRP

300 ha of degraded lands have been identified in the core zone of the RHBRP, and their recovery is expected after the implementation of eviction and surveillance actions; the natural recuperation of those areas is considered feasible given that natural recuperation within 10 years has already been observed in other formerly occupied areas.    

 

Satellite images and/or photographs obtained with overflights

4

By Year 2025, the abundance indexes of the populations of jaguar (Panthera onca) and its prey species (Odocoileus virinianus, Tapirus bairdii) are maintained or have increased   

The jaguar has been identified as one of the key targets for conservation in the analysis made in 2012 and previous studies about ecological integrity since this species is the apex predator of the food chain in the tropical forests present in the reserve, its main function being the regulation of prey populations, which makes it an indicator species for the overall state of the ecosystems. This species is also included in Appendix 1 of the CITES Convention.

Quinquennial monitoring studies of the relative abundance and distribution of the jaguar, its population composition and the structure of the prey species

 

Implementation of SIMONI

The following indicators apply to the wider Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve and will need to be revised following the modification of the property boundaries as outlined in Indicator 1

5

By Year 2020 in the cultural zone and the buffer zone of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, 101 719.22has of forest are sustainably managed through the assignment of forest community management contracts following processes which guarantee the legality of the forest products

In the cultural and buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve, sustainable use of the forest resources needs to directly involve local communities by assigning them responsibilities in conservation and protection of these resources. 

Approved Forest Management Plans

Evaluations of achievement

Monitoring and surveillance of use activities

 

6

By Year 2017, the actual presence of populations and working areas in the core zone of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve are 100% eliminated

The core zone is an area of special protection where human presence and any activities (except for research activities in accordance with a granted permit and the monitoring and investigation plan) are forbidden. Illegal occupation of lands in the core zone represent the main threat to natural resources of the area also given the fact that the inscription of the property as a natural World Heritage site was largely based on the existence of virgin forests (without intervention of men) contained in this zone.

Eviction reports

 

Reports of control and monitoring (overflights and patrols)

Satellite images

7

In 2020, the indigenous peoples (Miskitos, Pech and afro-Honduran (Garífunas)) are integrated in the management of the Biosphere Reserve under a governance plan of the territory through the entitlement of 424 123.87 has (Community and Intercommunity titles for full possession) recognizing their ancestral rights in the Cultural Zone of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve

The use of ancestral territories of the miskitos, pech and garífunas communities in the Cultural Zone will be regulated respecting their ancestral knowledge of the limits recognized by the territorial councils, and complying with the ILO- Convention 169 and the forest law that provides for participation and integration of the communities in the management of natural resources and protected areas. 

 

Titles in favor of indigenous peoples and afro-Honduran peoples present in the reserve

 

 

8

By 2020, management responsibilities and rights of use are assigned to all the inhabitants in the buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve, who comply with the established requirements in the law through the signature of familial usufruct contracts

The forest law provides for a mechanism of allocation and assignment of use, conservation, management and usage of the lands meant for forest use in the national territory under a series of requirements of which the aim is to encourage the communities by making them participants of the management.

Currently, there is a cadastral basis for lands in the buffer zone and in the latter, approximately 2 200 usufruct familial contracts and 2 community titles for indigenous communities Pech (Culuco and Jocomico) present in the buffer zone of the reserve, have been granted. These processes are being realized with the support of the German cooperation through the Project of Territorial Communal Management and Protection of the Environment in Rio Platano (PROTEP).

 

Contracts of assigned usufruct and monitoring of their implementation

9

The ad hoc Committee has annually developed and implemented a Work Plan aimed at creating efforts of resource management and political impacts

It is necessary to elaborate concrete work plans for the functioning of the ad hoc committee, by starting to manage and coordinate actions that contribute directly to the conservation of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve.  

Work plans and progress reports of activities and follow-up of realized actions

10

At least until the year 2025, the level of acceptable management is maintained in the implementation of the Methodology for monitoring the management effectiveness in relation to the implementation of the Management Plan of the area

 

The Management Plan of a protected area is a technical administrative tool in which the actions are regulated, and strategic axis are established, which will help to reduce the threats on the objects of conservation identified for the area and simultaneously involve the communities in the effective management of the area, contributing to their sustainable development.

The implementation of the Methodology for monitoring the management effectiveness allows to measure the degree of implementation of the planned actions within the stated timeframe.

 

Biannual evaluations of Management effectiveness in  the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve

11

By 2017, at least one co-management structure has been established in the Rio Platano Biosphere reserve

Until now co-management has not been used in the reserve, however a strategy identifying the most appropriate co-management arrangements is needed in the area where various organizations and institutions are present which are interested in the realization of co-management. The report of the diagnosis of key actors identified 8 non-governmental organizations, 5 governmental organizations, 6 municipalities, 3 indigenous federations and 1 afro-Honduran, UNICAF, 2 inter-institutional tables, all of them being present and active in the reserve. By 2017 it is planned to sign at least one co-management agreement with one of these institutions.

Established agreements

Progress reports on the established co-management agreements


Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.20

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.33, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Commends the State Party and external supporters for the progress made in consolidating an integrated monitoring mechanism and the further clarification of access to land and natural resources, and encourages the State Party to continue these efforts;
  4. Adopts the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) developed by the State Party in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, as presented under Item 20 of Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add, and considers that this DSOCR should be revised and, if necessary, further complemented with additional indicators following the clarification of the property’s boundaries;
  5. Notes the approval of the International Assistance Request to conclude the clarification of the boundaries of the property and urges the State Party to submit, as required, a boundary modification for consideration by the Committee, in conformity with the appropriate procedures laid out in the Operational Guidelines;
  6. Recalls the State Party’s intention to minimize the environmental and social impacts of the construction of dams in the Patuca watershed, and requests the State Party to report on the possible impacts of the Patuca III project once the boundaries of the property will be clarified;
  7. Reiterates its concern that no apparent progress has been made in terms of human, financial and logistical resources, and notes with concern that the security situation appears to impact on the State Party’s ability to operate in the property;
  8. Also reiterates its concern that illegal activities continue to impact on the property, and strongly urges the State Party to prevent new illegal settlements so as to avoid further evictions in the future;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  10. Decides to retain the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/8E.Rev,
  2. Congratulates the States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties located within their territories;
  3. Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-15/39.COM/8E.Rev, for the following World Heritage properties:
AFRICA ARAB STATES

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

4. Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed in priority by the Advisory Bodies;

5. Takes note that the World Heritage Centre, further to Decision 38 COM 8E, continues to harmonize all sub-headings in the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value and updates names and sizes or buffer zones, as appropriate, following relevant Decisions of the Committee concerning changes of names and Minor Boundary Modifications;

6. Requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and further requests the World Heritage Centre to upload the two language versions on its web site.