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World Heritage Convention

Decision 45 COM 7B.21
Białowieża Forest (Belarus, Poland) (N 33ter)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 43 COM 7B.14 and 44 COM 7B.100 adopted at its 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Expresses its utmost concern regarding the construction by the State Party of Poland, without prior submission to the World Heritage Centre of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), of a border barrier between the Belarusian and Polish parts of the transboundary property, crossing some of the best preserved and most sensitive areas of the property, which will further affect the ecological connectivity and inevitably result in forest fragmentation, changes in the hydrological regime, increased spread of invasive species through the construction phase and degradation of important biotopes, and will severely affect animal movement across the property;
  4. Urges the States Parties of Belarus and Poland to take adequate measures to address the impacts listed above and guarantee ecological connectivity across the border that allows wildlife movement and considers that, if such measures are not taken urgently, the property may meet the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;
  5. Requests the States Parties of Belarus and Poland to invite, as a matter of urgency, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in order to:
    1. Assess the impacts of the border barrier on the OUV of the property, including its integrity, ecological function and wildlife movement, which are vital to the viability of populations of key species,
    2. Assess whether the animal crossings and breaks across watercourses put in place represent sufficient mitigation measures to maintain the OUV of the property, with regards to the movement of key species,
    3. Review progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission and previous Committee Decisions, including the various management documents recently developed, or under development, to establish their alignment with the conservation of the property’s OUV;
  6. Notes furthermore with concern that the reports submitted by the States Parties did not provide any details on the ongoing efforts to develop a Transboundary Integrated Management Plan, and encourages a transboundary cooperation for the conservation of the property;
  7. Welcomes the progress in updating the Management Plan (MP) of the Belarus area of the property, also urges the State Party of Belarus to adopt a legal ban on wolf hunting in the Belarusian area of the property, and to ensure that the relevant wildlife and forest management plans are updated, based on the updated MP and requests that the draft MP be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, before its final approval;
  8. Also requests the State Party of Poland to finalise the overall MP for the Polish area of the property, taking into account IUCN’s technical review of its outline and the recommendations of the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission, ensuring the full participation of all stakeholders and rightsholders, drawing on international expertise as necessary, and reinforcing the protection of the OUV of the property as the central management objective, and to submit the draft MP to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN and prior to its final approval, and reiterates that the MP should guide the development of other management documents, including the new Forest Management Plans (FMP), to ensure that all plans are aligned with the protection of the OUV of the property;
  9. Notes also with concern that the draft revised zoning plan by the State Party of Poland would result in a significant reduction in the partially protected zones and a consequent increase in the area foreseen for active forest management, and thus further urges the State Party of Poland to avoid decreasing the area excluded from active forest management, in line with the recommendation of the 2018 mission;
  10. Reiterates the importance for the new FMPs to comply with the management prescriptions included in Decision 43 COM 7B.14, in line with the forestry management regime outlined at the time of the property’s extension in 2014 and the subsequent recommendations of the 2018 mission, and encourages again the State Party of Poland to seek further advice from IUCN on the development of the new FMPs to ensure that these requirements are met, prior to their approval;
  11. Further requests the State Party of Poland to provide information on current traffic conditions on the Narewkowska road and reaffirm measures taken to minimize and manage any impacts resulting from traffic;
  12. Also welcomes the efforts to restore the hydrological regime of the Narewka River and encourages the two States Parties to jointly implement plans to restore the natural flow of the river and to continue the rehabilitation of wetlands;
  13. Requests furthermore the States Parties to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1February 2024, an updated joint report on the state of conservation of the property, on the implementation of the above and the recommendations of the 2018 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 46th session, considering that the urgent conservation needs of this property require a broad mobilization to preserve its Outstanding Universal Value, including the possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decision Code
45 COM 7B.21
States Parties 2
Properties 1
State of conservation reports
2023 Białowieża Forest
Context of Decision