1.         East Rennell (Solomon Islands) (N 854)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2013-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

Adopted; see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6965

Corrective measures identified

Adopted; see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7423

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Adopted, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7423

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2006-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 56,335
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 56,689 UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (2015): Technical Support to East Rennell; USD 35,000, UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust (2015): Support to East Rennell; USD 38,398, UNESCO/Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (2019-present); and USD 298,000, UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust (2022-present): Developing sustainable livelihoods in East Rennell

Previous monitoring missions

March–April 2005: UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring mission; October 2012: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2015: World Heritage Centre/IUCN Advisory mission; May 2019: joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 9 May 2022 and 30 March 2023, the State Party submitted reports on the state of conservation of the property, which are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/854/documents/, reporting the following:

On 26 July 2021, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party regarding third-party information about the granting of bauxite mining exploration licenses to Nickel Enterprise SI Limited by the Ministry of Mines, Energies and Rural Electrification.

On 28 June 2022, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party conveying information from a third party about a reported change in management arrangements for some of the customary owned lands within the property.

No response has been received from the State Party on either of the letters at the time of writing.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The State Party’s continued efforts to implement the corrective measures and recommendations of the 2019 Reactive Monitoring mission are welcomed. While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are acknowledged, the limited progress with the implementation of the corrective measures and other recommendations of the mission due to budget issues is of concern, and efforts should be strengthened. Since the allocation of budget depends on a new Cabinet Paper, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate once again its request to adopt, as a matter of urgency, this Cabinet Paper with the commitments and associated budgets of the respective ministries.

The continued and progressive efforts by customary landowners, local communities of East Rennell and the LTWHSA to safeguard the OUV of the property from destructive activities are appreciated. It is noted that communities took a clear position against the bauxite mining exploration proposal, but the State Party is yet to clarify the status of the proposal and should be reminded of the Committee’s position that mining, including exploration, is considered incompatible with the World Heritage status for natural sites (Decision 37 COM 7).

The process of providing legal protection for the property’s OUV while respecting customary rights of the local communities, pending finalization of the Management Plan and community dialogue on the Protected Areas Act 2010, should be accelerated. The opportunity for the new GEF-6 funded project to support this process should be explored, as there may be potential to facilitate the declaration of a Protected Area, in line with the recommendation of the 2019 mission, as a positive step in the development of the Management Plan for the property which is a key objective under the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR). The letter received from the third party is concerning in this regard as this relates directly to the establishment of a legal protection mechanism. Recalling the Committee’s position that the long term conservation of the property’s OUV can only be secured with the full consent of the customary land owners and land users in full respect of their rights, all parties concerned should be urged to develop a workable, long-term solution for the customary governance of the property throughout the process of establishing legal protection for the property, and the State Party should be requested to provide information in response to the letter of 28 June 2022.

The cancellations of the logging proposal and the associated new road in the property are welcomed. While the need to improve the condition of the only road to the property is acknowledged, caution is still warranted, as that road could still pose a threat through easier access for commercial logging, in the absence of adequate legal protection. It is therefore recommended that the Committee remind the State Party to undertake an EIA in line with the new Guidance for Impact Assessment in a World Heritage Context for all planned development to assess potential impacts on the property’s OUV, in accordance with Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, and submit it to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN.

The continued food insecurity for local communities, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of climate change, is of great concern and should be urgently addressed. In this context, ongoing dialogues, including the community and stakeholder consultation meetings organized in April/May 2022, and activities towards the development of sustainable livelihoods for East Rennell’s communities should be welcomed and these efforts should be further supported in line with priority actions identified in the new Action Plan, notably through the NFiT, JFiT and GEF-6 projects.

It is regrettable that no information was provided in following up the previously reported mass mortality of flying foxes, a species recognized as an attribute of the property’s OUV. The State Party should be encouraged to urgently undertake a scientific investigation.

Joint action by the communities and BirdLife International to mitigate and control the impacts of invasive rats is welcomed and the State Party is requested to report on the progress. If initial research confirms that it will not be possible to completely eradicate invasive rats, the State Party might wish to propose an update of the DSOCR, in which the eradication of rats is currently listed as a method of verification, and the State Party should develop and implement an adequately resourced strategy to focus on minimizing the impact of already introduced invasive and alien species and fully operationalize effective biosecurity measures.

The submission of the extensive EIA on the impacts of the grounding of an industrial barge is appreciated. The estimated USD 1.6 million damage to the coral reefs, which hold important natural and cultural value to local communities, is significant and cause for concern. It is recommended that the Committee call upon the responsible company and licensee of SAPOR 2302 to adhere to the conclusions and recommendations of the EIA, with regards to compensation of the ecological, cultural and socio-economic impacts of the grounding.

In view of the multiple challenges faced by local communities, whose sustainable wellbeing is a prerequisite for the safeguarding of the property, the State Party should be encouraged to continue mobilizing additional international support, including via International Assistance under the World Heritage Fund, as well as to attract climate change funding to conduct the proposed integrated climate vulnerability assessment of the property.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7A.16

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 44 COM 7A.53 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online, 2021),
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s continued efforts to implement the corrective measures and recommendations made by the 2019 Reactive Monitoring mission, yet reiterates its concern that limited progress has been made towards their effective implementation, and therefore requests the State Party to strengthen these efforts;
  4. Reiterates once again its request to the State Party to adopt, as a matter of urgency, a new Cabinet Paper with the commitments and associated budgets of the respective ministries reflected in the budget allocation for the next fiscal year;
  5. Commends the continued efforts by customary landowners, local communities of East Rennell and the Lake Tegano World Heritage Site Association (LTWHSA) to safeguard the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, also reiterates its concern that potential threats to the property’s OUV arising from commercial logging and mining still exist, in the absence of an adequate legal protective mechanism for the property;
  6. Also reiterates its request to accelerate the pending finalization of the Management Plan and community dialogue on the Protected Areas Act 2010, including by exploring potential support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF-6)-funded project in this regard and urges all parties concerned to develop a workable long-term solution for the customary governance of the property, and requests the State Party to provide a detailed update in its next progress report, recalling its position that the long term conservation of the property’s OUV can only be secured with the full consent of the customary land owners and land users in full respect of their rights;
  7. Expresses its utmost concern about the reported granting of bauxite mining exploration licenses possibly overlapping with the property, recalling its position that mining, including exploration, is considered incompatible with World Heritage status for natural sites, appreciates the clear position by the local communities against proposed bauxite mining exploration reportedly in the area bordering the property, also requests the State Party to unequivocally confirm that the mining project has been abandoned;
  8. Also welcomes the cancellation of the commercial logging proposal and the proposed associated new road, and reminds the State Party to undertake a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for other planned developments, in line with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, including for the upgrade of the existing road, to assess any potential impact on the property’s OUV before any decision is made that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraphs 118bis and 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to submit a copy of the EIA to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN;
  9. Regrets that no information was provided on the previously reported mass mortality of flying foxes, and thus also urges the State Party to undertake a scientific investigation on this issue to identify causes and appropriate management interventions to safeguard this population as an important attribute of the property’s OUV;
  10. Notes the EIA conducted for the grounding of an industrial barge inside the property, and expresses concern regarding the extent of the damage to local coral reefs and the adverse socio-economic impacts on local communities, and thus calls upon the responsible company and licensee of SAPOR 2302 to adhere to the conclusions and recommendations of the EIA with regards to compensation for ecological, cultural and socio-economic impacts of the grounding;
  11. Reiterates its great concern that local communities continue to face food insecurity, accelerated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and further requeststhe State Party to address the issue as a matter of urgency, and also calls upon the international community to provide urgent humanitarian support;
  12. Further welcomes the community and stakeholder consultations organized in April/May 2022 which identified priority actions for developing sustainable livelihoods in East Rennell, and the livelihood projects supported by the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme and the UNESCO/Netherlands and UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trusts and the project jointly implemented by BirdLife International and local communities to study and mitigate the impacts of invasive rats, and encourages the State Party to continue mobilizing additional international support, including through the International Assistance mechanism under the World Heritage Fund, as well as climate change funding to conduct an integrated vulnerability assessment of the property;
  13. Further reiterates its concern that achieving the full implementation of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) by 2025 will be challenging without significant international support, and further calls upon the international community to provide the State Party with the necessary support;
  14. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, including a progress report of the implementation of the recommendations made by the 2019 Reactive Monitoring mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session;
  15. Decidesto retain East Rennell (Solomon Islands) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 45 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/23/45.COM/7A, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.3, WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.4),
  2. Having examined the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies, decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
3.    Recalls that the following properties were inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at its 18th extraordinary session (UNESCO, 2023):