The World Heritage Committee met for its fortieth session in Istanbul to consider the state of conservation of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage and the List of World Heritage in Danger and other matters. In regard to the state of world heritage properties on both lists, a particular focus was placed upon the emergency situation resulting from conflicts (especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen as well as in other states). This was indicated in the previous report for 2015, and this report focuses upon these concerns in the first part, before considering other conservation matters in the second. Before doing so, however—and on a more positive note—it is of significance that twelve new cultural properties, six new natural properties, and three mixed properties were inscribed on the List of World Heritage. One of these properties in Micronesia, however, was simultaneously added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. The cultural properties inscribed were the Antequera Dolmens Site (Spain; criteria i, iii, and iv); the Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites (Antigua and Barbuda; criteria ii and iv); the Archaeological Site of Ani (Turkey; criteria ii, iii, and iv); the Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda, Bihar (India; criteria iv and vi); the Archaeological Site of Philippi (Greece; criteria iii and iv); Gorham’s Cave Complex (UK; criterion iii); Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Micronesia; criteria i, iii, iv, and vi); Pampulha Modern Ensemble (Brazil; criteria i, ii, and iv); Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards (a serial property shared between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia; criteria iii, and vi); The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (another serial property shared between Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Switzerland; criteria i, ii, and vi); the Persian Qanat (Iran; criteria iii and iv); and Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape (China; criteria iii and vi). The natural properties inscribed were the Archipiélago de Revillagigedo (Mexico; criteria vii, ix, and x); Hubei Shennongjia (China; criteria ix and x); Lut Desert (Iran; criteria vii and viii); Mistaken Point (Canada; criterion viii); Sanganeb Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay: Mukkawar Island Marine National Park (Sudan; criteria vii, ix, and x); and the Western Tien-Shan (a transnational property shared between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan; criterion x). The mixed properties inscribed were the Ennedi Massif: Natural and Cultural Landscape (Chad; criteria iii, vii, and ix); the Khangchendzonga National Park (India; criteria iii, vi, vii, and x); and the Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities (a serial property of seven sites, the nomination of which emphasizes the present severe environmental and cultural threats focused upon by the committee at the fortieth session, Iraq; criteria iii, v, ix, and x). The emphasis upon the ‘emergency situation resulting from conflicts’ was, as noted above, a feature of the 2015 report, which added three cultural properties (in Iraq and Yemen) to the List of World Heritage in Danger. In 2016, this was again a particular focus of the committee (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 35–53). Decision 40 COM 7 states that the committee ‘[d]eplores the conflict situation prevailing in several countries, the loss of human life as well as the degradation of humanitarian conditions and expresses its utmost concern at the damage sustained and the threats facing cultural heritage in general’ (para. 3 [emphasis added]). In response, it [u]rges the States Parties to ratify international instruments such as the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and implores States Parties associated with conflicts to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural or natural heritage and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage. (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 4 [emphasis added]) It furthermore ‘[a]lso urges the States Parties to adopt measures that oppose World Heritage properties being used for military purposes’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 5 [emphasis added]). Conflict in Mali, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen was focused upon by the committee, although the situation in Syria was of particular concern (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 7). This resulted in the specific Decision 40 COM 7A.22 relating to all six Syrian properties (including Aleppo, Bosra, Damascus, and Palmyra), ‘the General Decision on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic.’ This included paragraph 5, where the committee [u]rges all parties associated with the situation in Syria to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural heritage of the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, including the halting of all damages that result from targeting World Heritage properties, sites included in the Tentative List and other cultural heritage sites, as well as the illegal re-use of archaeological material and inappropriate new construction. The conflict situation was responsible for many properties being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2016 (five of eight listed, none removed from the List in Danger) and explains why around half of the fifty-five properties on this list have been inscribed because of this conflict. The committee placed the five world heritage sites of Libya on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of damage caused by the conflict affecting the country and the threat of further damage it poses. The five sites are: the Archaeological Site of Cyrene, the Archaeological Site of Leptis Magnae, the Archaeological Site of Sabratha, the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, and the Old Town of Ghadamès. The committee noted high levels of instability and the presence of armed groups on the sites or in their immediate surroundings. It invoked the damage already incurred and the serious threat of further damage to explain the decision. Other additions to the List of World Heritage in Danger included the Old Towns of Djenné (Mali), which is also situated in an area affected by insecurity. This prevents the safeguarding measures needed to address the deterioration of construction materials, urbanization, and erosion. Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Micronesia) was also added at the same time as its inscription on the List of World Heritage because of the siltation of waterways contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves undermining the existing edifices. The Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Uzbekistan) was also added to the List in Danger due to the over-development of tourist infrastructure in the site. The process of reactive monitoring was also considered by the committee as a result of requests for clarification and information on the nature and organization of missions (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 15–26). Determining the ‘desired state of conservation for the removal of a property from the List of World Heritage in Danger’ was also subject to discussion by the committee (paras 27–34). In both instances, issues in relation to the Operational Guidelines were highlighted. In regard to other conservation issues, the reconstruction of the properties that had been subject to both armed conflict (including Nigeria) and earthquakes (Nepal) was of continuing concern (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 11), and it was noted that the Operational Guidelines in this respect were inadequate (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 54–63). While previous efforts in this area have yielded success (for example, Abu Simbel, Egypt; Warsaw, Poland; and Dubrovnik, former Yugoslavia), post-war reconstruction in the Middle East has resulted in a good deal of activity in an effort to find solutions. Climate change was furthermore a cross-cutting issue of huge and ongoing significance (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 64–8). Following the twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in 2015, ‘implementation of appropriate management responses to the adverse effects of Climate Change’ was emphasized (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 14), with a recommendation that the World Heritage Centre ‘strengthen its relations with other organisations working on Climate Change, particularly with the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) secretariats, specifically with regard to the effect of Climate Change on World Heritage properties’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 15). Three specific sources of negative effects upon world heritage properties were highlighted: major dam projects, extractive industries, and roads and railways. In regard to dams, the threats to Niokolo-Koba National Park (Senegal), the Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania), Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya) and Lake Baikal (Russia) were highlighted (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 69–70). Two potential new additions to the List in Danger— Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves/La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica/Panama) and Dja Faunal Reserve (Cameroon)—were considered because of dam developments. The committee: [n]otes with significant concern that an increasing number of properties are facing potential threats from major dam projects, considers that the construction of dams with large reservoirs within the boundaries of World Heritage properties is incompatible with their World Heritage status, and urges States Parties to ensure that the impacts from dams that could affect properties located upstream or downstream within the same river basin are rigorously assessed in order to avoid impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 17 [emphasis added]) In Asia, hydropower development is also a threat—for example, to the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (India, inscribed on the List in 2014; criterion x) and to the newly inscribed Khangchendzonga National Park—as recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Advisory Body Evaluation (India, 2016; criteria iii, vi, vii, and x). Downstream, the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries (Thailand, 1991; criteria vii, ix, and x) are affected by dam projects. It is also notable that several areas are either without, or lack the benefit of protection under, the World Heritage Convention—for example, the rivers and mountains of Pakistan and the Mekong River and Delta. In what is known as the ‘Third Pole,’ a failure to address the negative effects of hydropower development is a significant challenge to the environment and to the livelihoods of dependent communities as well as the outstanding universal value (OUV) of these and other properties. Regarding extractive industries, it is emphasized that these pose ‘a significant threat to over half of all natural and mixed properties’ (WHC/16/40.COM/7, paras 71–2). Decision 40 COM 7 welcomed the commitments made by two companies not to operate in or around world heritage properties and reiterated its call on other extractive industry companies and investment banks to follow these examples to further extend the ‘no-go’ commitment (para. 18): ‘[In] Recalling Decision 37 COM 7, it furthermore once again urges all States Parties to the Convention and leading industry stakeholders to respect the ‘No-go’ commitment by not permitting extractive industries within World Heritage properties, and by making every effort to ensure that extractive industries located in their territory cause no damage to World Heritage properties, in line with Article 6 of the Convention. (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 19 [emphasis added]) In regard to what are termed ‘ground transportation infrastructures,’ the potential impact of road and rail, in particular, above and below ground, upon OUV is noted ‘with concern’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 25). The types of impacts on OUV include ‘visual impacts on properties and their settings, damage to archaeology, severing of archaeological remains from their context leading to loss of coherence and understanding, pollution and runoff, and fragmentation of natural ecosystems and creation of barriers for the movement of wildlife’ (WHC/16/40.COM/7, para 82). In urban areas, underground infrastructure from metro stations is a concern, and, in natural areas, increased access results in poaching of wildlife and illegal logging (para. 82). Transportation infrastructure also often leads to uncontrolled development adding to existing pressures (para. 82). As such, ‘[t]he key to dealing with ground transportation infrastructure is, first, to ensure that transportation planners at the national, regional, and local levels are aware of the World Heritage properties and their OUV long before any planning exercises begin’ (para. 83). The states parties are also called on ‘to carry out Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) early in the process of transportation planning to allow for potential impacts of the OUV, including those resulting from foreseeable associated developments, to be identified prior to the development of specific projects’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 25): ‘This step will allow for impacts to be understood at the earliest stages of the planning process’ (WHC/16/40.COM/7, para. 83). The committee links SEAs with environmental impact assessments (EIA), and states parties are encouraged ‘to carry out EIAs and Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) on ground transportation projects’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 26). However, the committee appears to have mis-stated the purpose of EIA, which is an ex ante process whereby relevant stakeholders and the public should be involved as early as possible. The reference to ‘[o]nce projects have been planned, EIAs and or HIAs should be carried out’ is therefore too late in the process (para. 83 [emphasis added]). Nonetheless, what is clear is that assessments are needed for projects with potential for direct, indirect, and cumulative effects. Acknowledgement is also given of the significance of transboundary impacts, with the examples of development projects in Ethiopia that could impact upon Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya), in Angola and Namibia that could impact upon Okavango Delta (Botswana), and in Mongolia that could impact upon Lake Baikal (Russia). There are plans ‘to identify where and how the assessment of impacts on OUV required by the Convention can be integrated into existing legal frameworks to ensure a streamlining of impact assessment’ (WHC/16/40.COM/7, para. 76). It is furthermore noted that the advisory bodies (the World Conservation Union and the International Council of Monuments and Sites) ‘also recognize that there is a need to streamline their advice’ (paragraph 76) and indicate a ‘preparedness to develop … a guidance document on the assessment of impacts on OUV of both natural and cultural properties’ (para. 76). Integrated management, decision making, and governance is the final area of general interest in relation to conservation in the report this year; there is a clear link in relation to the promotion of environmental assessment processes as indicated above, including those of a transboundary nature, which are considered to be ‘particularly complex’ (WHC/16/40.COM/7, para. 79). The example of the Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves/La Amistad National Park (Costa Rica/Panama), noted above, is given; as is the Silk Roads: The Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), which ‘requires the establishment by the States Parties concerned of a joint management committee’ (para. 79). This is also recommended for properties that are separately inscribed but contiguous on either side of an international border (Iguazu National Park, Argentina and Iguaçu National Park, Brazil). In the case of mixed, serial, and transboundary properties, the lack of an integrated management approach is therefore particularly evident, with states parties urged ‘to establish appropriate mechanisms in order to facilitate a coordinated approach’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 23), and, as noted, those ‘with contiguous natural properties on either side of their international borders, which are not listed as transboundary properties, to establish appropriate mechanisms for cooperation’ (para. 23). States Parties are also encouraged ‘to promote recognition and awareness across all relevant national and regional agencies of the World Heritage status of the properties … and to develop mechanisms to ensure consideration of impacts on OUV in the decision making processes … before permits are issued’ (Decision 40 COM 7, para. 24). © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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