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Cablegate: U.S. Delegation Report: 30th Session of the World Heritage

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Lucia A Keegan 08/04/2006 10:02:34 AM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

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UNCLAS PARIS 05276

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS 005276

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INTERIOR FOR NPS -- STEVE MORRIS
COMMERCE FOR NOAA -- ART PATTERSON

FROM USMISSION UNESCO PARIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL UNESCO LH
SUBJECT: U.S. DELEGATION REPORT: 30TH SESSION OF THE WORLD HERITAGE
COMMITTEE, VILNIUS, LITHUANIA, JULY 8-16

1. Summary: The World Heritage Committee, the 21-nation governing
body of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, held its 30th
Session in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 8-16, 2006. The Committee added
eighteen cultural and natural sites to the prestigious World
Heritage List and also decided to remove five sites and add two
others sites to its List of World Heritage in Danger. The new sites
bring the total number of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List
to 830. In addition, the Committee approved the extension of two
existing sites.

Highlights of the meeting included:

- The Committee reviewed twenty-nine proposals for the inscription
of new sites to the World Heritage List. Of these seven were for
natural sites, twenty were cultural sites, and two mixed sites.

- The Committee responded to the question of climate change impacts
on World Heritage Sites. In response to petitions received from
NGOs requesting the addition of five sites in different regions
around the world to the Committee's List of World Heritage in
Danger, the Committee did not place the sites on the Danger List but
instead adopted the recommendations of its expert working group
which focused on helping participating nations develop strategies
for adaptation and monitoring of climate change at World Heritage
Sites worldwide.

- Of particular interest to the U.S. Delegation, the Committee
accepted benchmarks for the eventual removal of Everglades National
Park from the Danger List and approved formal statements describing
the significance of each of the 20 U.S. World Heritage Sites.

- The Committee adopted a proposal aimed at reaching a better
understanding regarding the meaning of Outstanding Universal Value,
the Committee's threshold for judging the global significance of a
site.

- The Committee agreed to an extended period of study on the
outcomes of the first-cycle of Periodic Reporting and possible
adjustments to the process before beginning the next cycle. The
Periodic Report, a process in which State Parties report information
on the status of their World Heritage sites and their implementation
of the Convention, takes place on a 6-year reporting cycle.

- In a departure from its usual practice, the Committee took votes
on controversial topics twice. At the request of the US delegation,
the second vote was conducted by secret ballot and resulted in the
Committee deciding to defer a cultural landscape nomination of a
site in Southwestern France. This was the first secret ballot
conducted in 30 regular and 7 extraordinary sessions of the
Committee.

- A management audit of the World Heritage Centre, the Convention's
Secretariat was requested by the US Delegation and unanimously

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agreed to by the Committee.

- The U.S. Delegation was praised by many delegates and observers
for the constructive role it played in the decision-making process
and for its commitment to strengthen the quality of the World
Heritage Program.

End Summary

2. U.S. Delegation
The U.S. delegation included Department of the Interior Deputy
Assistant Secretary Paul Hoffman, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise
Oliver, Deputy Director of the National Park Service Don Murphy,
National Park Service Acting Chief of International Affairs Stephen
Morris, and International Cooperation Specialist Jonathan Putnam.


3. Voting
In a departure from its long-time practice of making decisions by
consensus, the Committee twice took votes on controversial issues.
Tension was evident early in the meeting as the Committee reviewed
State of Conservation reports for the 34 sites on the List of World
Heritage in Danger. The debate grew particularly contentious over
the Algerian site of Tipasa which Algeria and several delegations
representing developing countries believed should be removed from
the Danger List. Other delegations felt that removal of the site
was premature since Algeria has not yet satisfied all the corrective
measures, or benchmarks, agreed upon when the site was placed on the
Danger List. The debate highlighted the need for the Committee to
be more specific in the language of its decision in laying out what
particular actions it expects State Parties to complete before a
site can be removed from the Danger List. After seeking a legal
opinion on what constitutes a two-thirds majority vote and a
determination that the motion for removal from the Danger List had
not gained the required majority, the Committee deferred
consideration of the issue for a day to allow tempers to cool.
Ultimately, the Committee reached a compromise in which the site was
removed from the Danger List with the condition that unless the
remaining benchmarks are reached by next February the site will be
re-inscribed on the Danger List at the next Committee meeting. (A
similar conditional approach was used for the inscription of an
Omani site, the Aflaj Irrigation Systems, which was also somewhat
controversial. The decision in that case calls on the State Party
to submit to the Committee by February 1, 2007 a management plan and
confirmation of legal protection for the site.)

The other vote followed a long debate on the French nomination of
the cultural landscape of the Causses and the Cevennes, occupying
several hundred thousand acres of southwestern France. The Advisory
Body recommended referral of the site for a number of reasons, but
several Committee members, swayed in part by the site's association
with the persecution of French protestants during the 17th century,
argued for inscription. The State Party was asked several times
whether or not it would accept a referral or deferral allowing it
the opportunity to bring back to the Committee a revised nomination
in up to 3 years time, but the French Ambassador declined the offer
in no uncertain terms stating his government's interest in having a
clear decision from the Committee either inscribing the site or
deciding not to inscribe it. The Ambassador also made clear that
the French government would not bring the nomination back in the
event of a decision to refer or defer it. Whether fairly or not,
the response from the State Party was seen by a number of Committee
members as a sign of French intransigence and unwillingness to meet
the Committee half-way. The inability to reach a consensus on the
matter resulted in the second call for a vote, one in which the U.S.
delegation requested voting be done by secret ballot. The results
of the vote made clear the lack of a two-thirds majority favoring
inscription and facilitated the Committee decision to refer the site
back to France for additional information. The Committee's decision
to reject immediate inscription of the French nomination was seen by
some as an unusual turn about to the more common deference extended
to the French government, which hosts UNESCO's headquarters in
Paris.

4. Climate Change
In 2005, several environmental NGOs submitted a petition to the
World Heritage Committee requesting that four World Heritage sites
(Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal,
Belize's Barrier Reef System, and Huscarn National Park in Peru) be
included on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats from
global climate change. At the 29th Committee meeting in Durban in
2005, the Committee responded to this petition by requesting the
World Heritage Centre, the Convention's Secretariat, to organize an
expert working group on the impacts of climate change on World
Heritage, which was held in Paris in March 2006. Immediately prior
to the March experts' meeting, another petition was submitted to the
Committee requesting that the Waterton-Glacier International Peace
Park be put on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to climate
change impacts there.

The expert working group produced a report on "Predicting and
Managing the Effects of Climate Change on World Heritage" and a
"Strategy to Assist State Parties to Implement Appropriate
Management Responses" which were presented to the Committee. The
strategy recommends preventative actions, corrective actions and the
knowledge sharing by and between site managers and other
stakeholders.

In Vilnius, the draft Committee decision endorsed the
recommendations of the expert working group, but did not
specifically address the issue of the NGO petitions. The U.S.
therefore offered an amendment, approved by the Committee, which
stated that decisions to list properties on the Danger List will be
made on a "case-by-case basis" and in consultation with State
Parties and the Advisory Bodies.

The Committee's discussion on this issue was comparatively low-key.
Peru expressed an interest in developing an alternative to the
Danger List for dealing with Climate Change impacts (eventually
incorporated into the Decision), and Israel wanted some more
explicit references to the Kyoto Protocol (ultimately rejected by
the Committee).

On Monday, July 10 (before any decision had even been made), the BBC
was reporting that the United States was "blocking" efforts to get
the Committee to call for reductions in global carbon dioxide
emissions. The U.S. delegation made a statement expressing the
United States' concern over this erroneous report, and called on all
present to be more careful in their communications with the media.
The Chair took the floor and strongly supported the U.S. position.


Some other key components of the Committee's Decision on Climate
Change include:

- The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies were requested to
develop proposals for the implementation of pilot projects at World
Heritage sites that would develop best practices for implementing
the Climate Change Strategy;

- The Centre was requested to work with Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) to include a chapter on World Heritage in the
IPCC assessment reports;

- The Centre was requested to prepare a policy document on Climate
Change to be presented to the General Assembly meeting in 2007, to
include considerations on legal issues pertaining to the role of the
World Heritage Convention vis-`-vis Climate Change; linkages to
other conventions and UN and other bodies; and alternatives to the
List of World Heritage in Danger to address climate change impacts
at World Heritage sites.

5. World Heritage Sites in the U.S.: Everglades
The Committee approved benchmarks regarding the environmental
restoration effort ongoing for many years at Everglades National
Park which will facilitate the Committee's consideration of removing
the park from the List of World Heritage in Danger on which it was
placed in 1993. The benchmarks are specific, ecologically based
measures that are achievable within the next several years, long
before the restoration effort itself will be complete. The
Committee's official advisor on natural heritage sites, the World
Conservation Union (IUCN), met with Department of the Interior and
National Park Service officials at the park in April to develop a
consensus proposal on the benchmarks for the Committees
consideration. Adoption of the benchmarks, signals the Committee's
confidence in the efforts the U.S. is taking in addressing the
problems facing the site.

6. Name Changes and Statements of Significance for U.S. World
Heritage Sites
With little debate, the Committee approved a series of
"housekeeping" measures pertaining to U.S. and Canadian sites,
including minor name changes for several U.S. sites as well as the
adoption of a formal statement of significance outlining the
specific reasons why the site was inscribed on the World Heritage
List. The housekeeping issues were identified in the Periodic
Report for North America adopted by the Committee at last year's
meeting in Durban. The statements, in a standard format, provide a
rationale for how the site meets the specific criteria under which
it was listed and, will serve, from now on, as an important
reference for site managers and the Committee itself regarding
threats facing the site's outstanding universal value.

7. Outstanding Universal Value
The Committee continued its discussion regarding the concept of
outstanding universal value and how it has been applied by the
Committee over the years. The discussion was a follow-up to a 2005
meeting of experts in Kazan, Russia as well as to the Committee's
review and discussions of the Kazan report at its last session in
Durban. The discussion was given added relevancy by the Committee's
debate on several nominations reviewed earlier in the meeting which
highlighted the widely disparate views among its members on what
constitutes outstanding universal value.

The Committee's decision on this item requested the World Heritage
Centre to compile a compendium of case studies outlining how each of
the criteria for inscription had been successfully applied over time
as well as a proposal for a training program on this topic for new
Committee members. The decision also calls on the Centre to propose
a new format for tentative lists of potential future nominations by
State Parties to the Convention as well as a meeting of experts to
develop criteria for determining adequate protection and management
for proposed sites, the format for State of Conservation reports,
and, most importantly, standards for establishing and measuring
benchmarks for conservation and removal from the Danger List. The
latter recommendation grew out of the difficult discussions on the
Algerian site proposed for removal from the Danger List (see item 3,
above) and others in a similar situation.

8. Working Methods of the Committee
In contrast to prior sessions in 2004 and 2005, at this meeting the
Committee did an excellent job, under the guidance of its very
capable chair, the Lithuanian Ambassador to UNESCO, Ms. Ina
Marciulionyte, of keeping to its agenda and completing all of its
business before the close of the meeting. The Chair adopted several
improvements that had been recommended in the past as a way of
improving time management of the Committee's meetings, including the
starting and ending the meetings on schedule, the use of a timer to
limit speakers, and keeping to a minimum statements of
congratulations and repetitive interventions making the same point.


The Committee discussed the need to have the General Assembly of
States Parties play the more substantive role in providing policy
guidance to the Committee, a role to which it is assigned by the
Convention, but which is hasn't been providing due to the fact that
its sessions are now dominated by the elections of members to the
Committee which take up the better part of two days. In a bid to
improve this situation, the Committee decided to add one full
meeting day every two years devoted to issues to be presented to the
General Assembly which meets biannually in conjunction with UNESCO's
General Conference. It also asked the World Heritage Centre to
propose a new more efficient system for elections which would allow
the General Assembly time during its meeting to consider substantive
issues. The Centre is directed to present its proposal both at next
year's Committee session for comment and in final as a proposal to
be adopted by the next General Assembly in October 2007.

9. Pause in Periodic Reporting
With the presentation and adoption of the European region's Periodic
Report at its 30th session, the Committee has now adopted in a
staged process similar reports from all regions of the world and
fully completed the 6-year worldwide periodic reporting cycle
started in 2000 with the Arab States. Amending its decision adopted
last year in Durban (at the request of the U.S. and Canada) to take
a one-year pause before commencing anew with a 2nd cycle of Periodic
Reporting, the Committee agreed to extend the pause to two years to
allow greater time to adjust the reporting process and redesign the
format for the report. Its decision on this item empowers a small
working group made up of Committee members, the Advisory Bodies, and
the Secretariat to simplify the periodic reporting questionnaire as
well as developing a format for progress reports on periodic
reporting with clear objectives, benchmarks and results that
facilitate global comparison and evaluation. The U.S. supports
simplifying the periodic reporting process.

10. Management Audit
During the discussion on performance indicators for World Heritage
and as part of a review of the World Heritage Centre's budget, the
U.S. Delegation requested that prior to developing a strategic plan
for the Centre and a program for 'results-based management' an
external management audit of the Centre be conducted. It has been
more than 5 years since the last audit was done. The U.S. motion
was adopted by the Committee.

11. New Chair for Committee's 31st Annual Session
The Committee elected New Zealand as Chair for its next session to
be held in Christchurch, New Zealand, June 23-July 1, 2007. Also
elected as raporteur was John Pinkerton of Parks Canada, as well as
Benin, Japan, Norway, Cuba, and Morocco as Vice-Chairpersons making
up the Committee's Bureau.

12. General Observations and Recommendations
Many delegates and observers commented on the marked increase in
regional factions which developed at the Vilnius meeting, partly as
a result of blatant public political lobbying. Many of the debates
on whether or not to remove or place a site on the Danger List, on
the inscriptions of new sites, and even on rather minor procedural
questions, broke down along the "North-South" divide, with India,
Kenya, Benin, and Tunisia the most regular representatives of the
"southern" perspective. This, essentially, was that the Committee
needs to be more lenient with State Parties, particularly in the
developing world, both in procedural matters (like submitting their
forms on time) and in much more substantive questions (whether or
not a site truly is of Outstanding Universal Value or not). These
State Parties worried that many countries with sites on the Danger
List saw that as a black mark which hindered conservation efforts,
for example, and that the "under-representation" of developing
countries on the World Heritage List means that the Committee should
be more accommodating to nominations from that part of the world.

Meanwhile, the "northern" perspective, most frequently voiced by
Netherlands and Norway, was that the Committee has spent a lot of
time developing criteria and guidelines and that these should be
followed strictly to avoid undermining the credibility of the
Convention and the Committee.

The United States was praised by many (mostly behind the scenes) for
the constructive role it played in many of these debates. The
calling for a secret ballot during the debate on the Caussess and
the Cevennes nomination, for example, defused an increasingly
contentious Committee. The U.S., which has long argued that the
Committee should be more focused on the conservation of existing
sites rather than the inscription of new ones, also offered an
amendment to take a "pause" in the inscription of new sites in 2008.
While the amendment was withdrawn, there appeared to be
considerable interest by other State Parties in this idea, at least
with possible modifications (e.g. allowing only countries with no
existing sites to nominate).

Other recommendations discussed informally by the U.S. Delegation to
improve the effectiveness of the Convention and the Committee
include:

- The Committee should consider having some of the reports on sites
on the Danger List be for "no discussion" if conditions have not
changed in the past year

- There should be an "Introduction to World Heritage" for new
Committee members
- The Legal Advisor should be in the room at all times

- The raporteur should have the ability to put amendments on the
large screens so that all Committee members can read them (with
changes clearly highlighted)

13. Other Business
During the course of the week, the U.S. Delegation met with other
delegations on a variety of related topics. For example, the
Mexican Delegation initiated discussions on the possibility of a
future joint World Heritage nomination focusing on the monarch
butterfly migration between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. The U.S.
Delegation agreed to consider this possibility in the context of
ongoing cooperative projects with Mexico and Canada. Another brief
discussion took place with the New Zealand Delegation who urged the
U.S. to participate in efforts to bolster the implementation of the
World Heritage Convention in the Pacific region, which is
under-represented on the World Heritage List and has many new State
Parties which are only now beginning efforts to develop tentative
lists and inscribe sites.
Peay

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