World Heritage and the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas

23 July 2014 | Article

IUCN’s work on World Heritage can support the Green List of Protected Areas in very concrete ways, in particular through the new  IUCN World Heritage Outlook. This is the first global assessment of natural World Heritage, providing IUCN’s analysis of the conservation prospects for all 228 natural World Heritage sites. The potential for a strong and positive relationship between the Green List and the Outlook is very high.

Natural World Heritage sites represent about 0.1% of the total number of protected areas; yet in size they cover more than 10% of the combined surface covered by protected areas globally. These iconic sites are thus areas of the utmost conservation significance in their own right. As such, they should also demonstrate the highest standards of practice and support wider results from protected areas. The World Heritage Outlook’s assessments take into consideration this important aspect of protection and management effectiveness.

The goal of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook is to improve the conservation of natural World Heritage sites and strengthen the World Heritage Convention. Its purpose is to:

  • Recognize well-managed World Heritage sites
  • Identify the most pressing conservation issues
  • Show the benefits provided to people by these sites
  • Track the conservation of all natural World Heritage sites over time

By assessing every natural site on the World Heritage List, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook recognizes good conservation practice and supports the role of World Heritage sites in demonstrating leadership within the global network of protected areas. It also draws attention to the need for action to address issues affecting the world’s natural wonders. This is particularly relevant to World Heritage sites that are listed as “in danger”, or that face growing and critical threats.

Through the IUCN World Heritage Outlook, each natural World Heritage site is analyzed by IUCN through a Conservation Outlook Assessment. These assessments are based on the state and trends of World Heritage values, existing and potential threats, and protection and management. Sites which demonstrate a good outlook, and effective protection and management, will be strong candidates for inclusion into the new IUCN Green List of Protected Areas.

It is anticipated that World Heritage could be a thematic “jurisdiction” within the Green List, enabling World Heritage sites that are performing well to be recommended for nomination through the Green List process and evaluation, using the World Heritage Outlook documentation as an up-to-date basis to support this.

This positive connection will ensure that World Heritage sites play their essential leadership role by using the Green List to demonstrate high standards in their management. This way, we can make sure World Heritage sites contribute to wider conservation success in the global network of protected areas as a whole.

Worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org now already features assessments for the majority of the 228 natural World Heritage areas currently inscribed. A full global and regional report will be presented in Sydney this November at the IUCN World Parks Congress.