The opening ceremony of the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee took place Sunday at the Bahrain National Theatre in the presence of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain. It marked the beginning of the Committee's work, which will continue until 4 July.
Several hundred people took part in the ceremony, which was opened by the President of the Bahraini Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the Chair of the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee, Sheikha Haya Bint Rashed Al-Khalifa, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, and the Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Lee Byong-hyun.
“Expectations of this session are high and we must seize this opportunity to strengthen joint work for the safeguarding of cultural heritage," said Sheikha Haya Bint Rashed Al-Khalifa. The Sheikha spoke of her country’s two World Heritage sites, Qal'at al-Bahrain – Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun, and Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy, and recalled that Bahrain is chairing the World Heritage Committee for the second time.
“It is significant that this year the Committee is being held in an Arab country,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, who reminded participants that the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage has its roots in the campaigns to safeguard the Egyptian sites of Abu Simbel and Philae.
“The idea of World Heritage has become a global norm,” added Ms Azoulay she observed, stressing that sites today are facing numerous threats such as armed conflict, illicit trafficking, rapid urbanization and climate change. “Of the 82 World Heritage sites in the Arab region, 17 are in danger,” she noted, recalling that these problems did not only impact sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The Director General went on to say that “Across Iraq, over 100 cultural heritage sites have been destroyed, many of which are in Mosul,” and she recalled that “Last February, UNESCO launched an initiative to Revive the spirit of Mosul, in partnership with the Iraqi authorities.”
The Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Lee Byong-hyun, said that “the World Heritage Convention, as UNESCO’s most universally recognized normative instrument, is a remarkable example of how collaboration among nationals through education, science and culture can be put into practice through common effort.”
The Committee will also examine the state of conservation of 157 sites already inscribed on the List, 54 of which are on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
One site will be examined with the view of its deletion from the World Heritage List: Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Uzbekistan)
The following sites are slated for inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
- Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya)
- Kathmandu Valley (Nepal)
- Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Pakistan)
The site of Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Belize), currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger, may be removed from that list due to improvements in its conservation.
The following proposals for inscription will scheduled to be examined as of the afternoon of 29 June:
- Fanjingshan (China)
- Chaine des Puys - Limagne fault tectonic arena (France)
- Arasbaran Protected Area (Islamic Republic of Iran)
- Bikine River Valley [extension of Central Sikhote-Alin, inscribed in 2001] (Russian Federation)
- Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains (South Africa)
- Pimachiowin Aki (Canada)
- Chiribiquete National Park – “The Maloca of the Jaguar” (Colombia)
- Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: original habitat of Mesoamerica (Mexico)
- Žatec – the Town of Hops (Czechia)
- Funeral and memorial sites of the First World War (Western Front) (Belgium / France)
- Colonies of Benevolence (Belgium / Netherlands)
- Historic Monuments and Sites of Ancient Quanzhou—Zayton (China)
- Aasivissuit—Nipisat Inuit Hunting Ground between Ice and Sea (Denmark)
- Historic Urban Ensemble of Nîmes (France)
- Archaeological Border Landscape of Hedeby and the Danevirke (Germany)
- Naumburg Cathedral (Germany)
- Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India)
- Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region (Islamic Republic of Iran)
- Ivrea, industrial city of the 20th century (Italy)
- Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano a Valdobbiadene (Italy)
- Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region (Japan)
- Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site (Kenya)
- Ancient City of Qalhat (Oman)
- Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea (Republic of Korea)
- Roșia Montană Mining Landscape (Romania)
- Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape (Saudi Arabia)
- Caliphate City of Medina Azahara (Spain)
- Göbekli Tepe (Turkey)
- Khor Dubai, a Traditional Merchants’ Harbour (United Arab Emirates)
The World Heritage Young Professionals Forum will take place in Manama ahead of the Committee session, from 17 to 26 June. Its theme this year will be: Protecting Heritage in an Ever-Changing World.
Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, UNESCO Media Section, firstname.lastname@example.org, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 02 and from 23 June in Manama: +33 (0) 6 80 24 07 29
Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Media Section, email@example.com, +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64 and from 23 June in Manama : +33 (0) 6 80 24 13 56
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All the Committee’s documents can be consulted online: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/42com/documents/