Day Five - feet firmly on the ground

23 June 2011 | Blogs

As Vice Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) for World Heritage, my role is a bit different from that of my Secretariat colleagues, says Allen Putney as day five of the World Heritage Committee in Paris gets underway.

They concern themselves with IUCN’s major responsibilities outlined in the Convention itself - especially with respect to the evaluation of nominations for new sites, the state of conservation of established sites and with the press.

We have agreed that I focus on activities that tend to matter most to WCPA members, particularly training, management effectiveness, and the future of the Convention. I help out with nominations and/or state of conservation reports where I have particular knowledge, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean where I worked for a good part of the past four decades.

This division of responsibilities seems to work well enough, and amplifies the thematic and geographical impact of the IUCN team’s inputs.

Today we are looking forward to our Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, joining the team for the next two days. Her presence at the meeting signals to delegates the importance that IUCN places on our participation in the Convention process, and ups the profile of the organization.

We are also looking forward to the launch of the Go4BioDiv Exhibition today. The exhibition was produced at the International Youth Forum, held in parallel to the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya last year.

In addition to our participation in the regular sessions of the meeting, which today focus on the examination of the state of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, we will also participate in side meetings relating to periodic reporting on World Heritage in Latin America and in Europe.

I come to these meetings with mixed feelings, because at heart I am basically a field person. Even though I have a background as a pilot, I feel more comfortable dealing with issues on the ground than in the air. I know at some level there is a need for these kinds of meetings to elicit commitments to shared ideals, guide international processes, and harness multiple actors.

At the same time, I have enough field experience to know that in all too many instances, the fine words, superbly crafted texts, and lofty intentions sometimes have little impact on the ground. While I will try to provide summary information to my WCPA colleagues who deal with World Heritage, I recognize they may not always find the content too relevant to their daily concerns.

And then there is the social side. It is great to see dear colleagues again, and discover new acquaintances from all over the world.