World Heritage Committee opens with an appeal to protect cultural heritage sites targeted for destruction
Bonn (Germany), 28 June—An appeal for the international community to counter the new threat of violent extremism and cultural cleansing was issued at the opening of the World Heritage Committee, which opened its session in Bonn, Germany, today. The Committee will remain in session until 8 July under the chair of Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office and member of the Bundestag.
In a video message, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the importance of heritage for our understanding of cultures.
“Heritage is under attack today. In Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, we see the brutal and deliberate destruction of heritage on an unprecedented scale. This is a call for action,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
“Our response to ignorance and criminal acts, must also have a cultural dimension: Knowledge, the sharing of Islam’s millennial learning and wisdom, sharing the message of Palmyra, the Venice of the Sands, that is like a bridge between the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome, the Persian Empire and the Arab culture from ancient times to the present,” said the Director-General before speaking of the launch in Baghdad three months ago of the #Unite4Heritage campaign.
Ms Böhmer for her part said that “the fury of terrorist organizations like ISIS in Iraq surpasses our imagination. World Heritage is the foundation of people’s existence and cohesion […]. It is the wellspring of social identity,” she added, invoking the role of culture in peace building.
Hao Ping, President of the General Conference of UNESCO, and Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chair of the Organization’s Executive Board, gave voice to the commitment of UNESCO Member States to protect sites under threat.
During the opening session, participants at the International Young Experts Forum presented the outcome of their meeting, taking place from 18 to 29 June in Koblenz and Bonn. They read out the Declaration they adopted calling on States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to include teaching about World Heritage in national school curricula.
Thirty-six sites are nominated for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List at this year’s session. They are (given here in the provisional order in which they are to be examined; though this order may be changed in the course of the session):
- Cape Floral Region Protected Areas [extension of the property Cape Floral Region Protected Areas] (South Africa)
- Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay - Mukkawar Island Marine National Park (Sudan)
- Landscapes of Dauria (Mongolia/Russian Federation)
- Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex (Thaïland)
- Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park [extension of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park] (Viet Nam)
Mixed natural and cultural sites:
- Blue and John Crow Mountains (Jamaica)
- Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape (Kenya)
- Nyero and other Hunter-Gatherer Geometric Rock-Art Sites in Eastern Uganda (Uganda)
- Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) (Jordan)
- Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia)
- Tusi sites (China)
- Susa (Islamic Republic of Iran)
- Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining (Japan)
- Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its Surrounding Sacred Landscape (Mongolia)
- Baekje Historic Areas (Republic of Korea)
- Singapore Botanical Gardens (Singapore)
- Cultural Landscape of Maymand (Islamic Republic of Iran)
- Christiansfeld, a Moravian Settlement (Denmark)
- Par Force Hunting Landscape in North Zealand (Denmark)
- Viking Age Sites in Northern Europe (Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway)
- Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy (France)
- Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars (France)
- Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus (Germany)
- Naumburg Cathedral and the Landscape of the Rivers Saale and Unstrut Territories of Power in the High Middle Ages (Germany)
- Bet She’arim Necropolis – A Landmark of Jewish Renewal (Israël)
- Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale (Italy)
- Rjukan – Notodden Industrial Heritage Site (Norway)
- La Rioja and Rioja Alavesa Wine and Vineyard Cultural Landscape (Spain)
- Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape (Turkey)
- Forth Bridge (United Kingdom)
- San Antonio Missions (United States)
- Gelati Monastery [Significant boundary modification of “Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery”] (Georgia)
- Routes of Santiago in Northern Spain [Extension of “Routes of Santiago de Compostela”] (Spain)
- Ephesus (Turkey)
- Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque, Renaissance Hydraulic Complex in America (Mexico)
- Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape (Uruguay)
During its session, the Committee will also examine the state of conservation of 94 sites already on the World Heritage List, and of the 46 sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Debates will be webcast.
A number of parallel events will be held during the current session, notably the launch of the Global Coalition for the Protection of Cultural Heritage: #Unite4Heritage, on 29 June.
All working documents are available online
Watch the Committee debates live:
Isabelle Le Fournis, UNESCO Press Service,
Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service,