Day 1 in St Petersburg: 2012 World Heritage Committee

Monday, 25 June 2012
access_time 2 min read
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova at the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation. © UNESCO | Paola Leoncini-Bartoli

Of the 33 sites nominated this year, which ones will make the cut to achieve UNESCO World Heritage status? The first day of the World Heritage Committee session began this morning, from the historic 18th century Tauride Palace (also known as “Tavrichesky” Palace) in St Petersburg, Russia. Delegations from the 21 States Parties will decide, by July 6, which sites will be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

They will also discuss sites on the World Heritage List in Danger, and a selection of those whose state of conservation is up for review.

Approximately 600 people attended today’s sessions. Following the meeting are NGOs with a stake in heritage; they can be invited to speak to the Committee on certain topics. Committee members hail from Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

In a press conference, Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, Chair of the 2012 World Heritage Committee and also Russia’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, argued in favor of reducing both the number of nominations for inscription and the number of sites reviewed during the session. “An increase in the number of inscribed sites doesn’t increase the process of conservation," she warned, urging greater rigor in preserving heritage sites.

Ms Mitrofanova also advocated for greater transparency in the work of the advisory bodies: the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova emphasized the role played by local authorities and communities in the conservation of World Heritage sites, and called to increase their involvement. This has been the focus of the ongoing celebration of the 40 th anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Convention and will be the subject of the anniversary celebration scheduled to take place in Kyoto (Japan) in November.