Time to focus on the success of natural World Heritage, says IUCN

17 June 2014 | News story

A new assessment by IUCN reveals for the first time the good conservation performance of natural World Heritage sites. The IUCN World Heritage Outlook provides unique insight into how the world’s natural sites can be preserved over time.

Launched today at the 38th annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook aims to close a knowledge gap on natural World Heritage sites by compiling assessments of each natural site inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Until now, less than half of all natural sites – those affected by serious conservation issues – have been regularly tracked through joint monitoring by UNESCO and IUCN, in its role as advisory body on natural World Heritage.

The World Heritage List includes natural, cultural and mixed sites, with natural sites representing 10% of the planet’s total protected area.

Developed by IUCN and its World Commission on Protected Areas, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook now also profiles well-managed sites, as well as drawing attention to the need to improve the prospects of sites under threat. This marks a first step toward recognising the role that World Heritage sites have in pioneering conservation success.

“These sites are designated as the world’s most valuable places and should demonstrate the highest standards of conservation. But once they are listed, we often don’t hear about them unless a serious problem requires attention,” says Cyril Kormos, Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas. “It is time that well-managed sites are given the recognition they deserve to lead the global conservation movement.”

The IUCN World Heritage Outlook now features conservation outlook assessments for 75% of all natural World Heritage sites, and all site assessments will be completed in the coming months. Initial results indicate that, among over 100 sites that have not been monitored by IUCN over the last 10 years, four in five show either a ‘good’ or ‘good with some concern’ conservation outlook.

Three elements are evaluated in each site to produce conservation outlook assessments: World Heritage values, threats to these values, and the effectiveness of protection and management. This makes it the first tool to catalogue the management efforts which are invested in the conservation of natural World Heritage.

“Our target is that all World Heritage sites should have a good outlook – the credibility of the World Heritage Convention is at stake and so is our ability to conserve these exceptional places for future generations,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “This new system is a major step to help natural World Heritage gain more support where it is needed.”

The website is open for feedback and assessments will be revised if new information becomes available. IUCN will present full global and regional reports at the 2014 World Parks Congress, 12-19 November 2014.

Facts & figures:

• There are over 160,000 protected areas but only 222 natural World Heritage sites.
• Natural World Heritage covers over 10% of the total surface covered by protected areas.
• In the past 10 years, less than half of all natural World Heritage sites were monitored at least once by IUCN and UNESCO.
• The IUCN World Heritage Outlook aims to assess all natural sites, including for the first time well-managed sites.
• The Conservation Outlook Assessments look at three elements: values, threats, and protection.
• Over 400 experts worldwide are consulted in preparing the conservation outlook assessments.
• www.worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org

For more information contact:
In Doha: Célia Zwahlen, IUCN World Heritage Programme Communications, m +974 305 33 889, celia.zwahlen@iucn.org
Arab States: Lara Nassar, IUCN West Asia Information, m +962 777 888 522, lara.nassar@iucn.org