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World Conservation Union recommends 3 new sites

The World Conservation Union recommends three new sites for inscription on World Heritage List

World Heritage Committee will take decisions next week at its 30th session in Vilnius, Lithuania

Gland, Switzerland (IUCN) – China’s Giant Panda Sanctuaries, the species rich Pacific waters surrounding Colombia’s Malpelo Island, and the uplifting Kvarken Archipelago of Finland are the three natural sites that IUCN recommends for inscription on the World Heritage List this year. These recommendations are based on a rigorous year-long evaluation process, including expert missions to all sites, and wide consultation.

The World Heritage Committee will consider 37 new cultural and natural sites nominated for UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List at its meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania from 8-16 July 2006. As the official advisory body on natural World Heritage sites, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) will present recommendations to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on the eight natural and two mixed sites (both natural and cultural) applying for World Heritage status this year. These sites are located in Azerbaijan, China, Colombia, Finland, Gabon, Indonesia, Israel, Malawi, Malaysia, Morocco, and Spain. IUCN will also propose action to take for other World Heritage sites under threat.

Sites under threat

Out of 184 natural and mixed World Heritage sites, currently 15 feature on the List of World Heritage in Danger, endangered by dam construction, war, poaching, deforestation, and poor management, amongst other issues.

Amongst the sites IUCN will report on are the Garamba National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), in danger of loosing the last Northern white rhino alive in the wild; the so-called ‘Three Parallel Rivers’ of Yunnan (China), possibly threatened by dam construction; the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) whose unique biodiversity is in jeopardy by fishing and invasive species; and Sumatra’s Tropical Rainforest (Indonesia), endangered by extensive deforestation and agricultural encroachment. Following field missions to a large number of sites, IUCN will be advising the Committee to make strong statements to governments and to call for international collaboration and support in relation to sites under threat.

Climate Change

With climate change high on the international agenda, next week’s meeting will look at ways in which World Heritage sites can be affected and possible response strategies that might build on the collaborative network and flagship functions of the Convention.

Outstanding Universal Value

With many countries striving to achieve World Heritage status for their heritage sites, the Committee will debate the interpretation and application of the concept of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, the standard required for a site to attain World Heritage status. IUCN believes that the credibility of the Convention lies in ensuring that only the very best, globally important sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List. IUCN will present a paper to the Committee next week outlining its position and proposals for ensuring a technical, non-biased approach to evaluating nominated sites and assessing ‘Outstanding Universal Value’.

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