Natural World Heritage sites are formally recognized by the international community, under the framework of the World Heritage Convention as among the most outstanding intact ecosystems on Earth. It is critical that managers have the information needed to manage these sites effectively and that the global community has confidence that site values are being maintained.
The Enhancing our Heritage project, a joint project of UNESCO World Heritage Centre, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the University of Queensland, supported by the United Nations Foundation, aimed to improve monitoring and evaluation in natural World Heritage sites. The project team worked with staff at nine World Heritage sites in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop and test assessment methods looking at management systems and processes as well as social and ecological impacts
The Enhancing our Heritage Toolkit builds on the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Framework for Assessment of Protected Area Management Effectiveness, which is based around analysis of the whole management cycle, including context (importance and threats), planning, inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes. The toolkit is a comprehensive set of evaluation methods to help natural World Heritage site managers to design and implement detailed management effectiveness assessments suitable for such globally significant conservation areas.
The “tools” consist of 12 questionnaires, scorecards, data sheets and monitoring procedures. The toolkit provides technical guidance on developing a monitoring system. It was designed in collaboration with World Heritage site managers to complement existing monitoring undertaken at sites and to identify and fill any gaps to provide a comprehensive assessment.
The assessments undertaken as part of the project have provided a clearer picture of the status and threats to the site, as well as management strengths and weaknesses. Managers used the results of the assessments to improve both management and monitoring and assessment systems. IUCN and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre hope that the experience can be replicated to improve monitoring and evaluation in all natural World Heritage sites
Sites in the project have found that they can use the information from the assessment to improve periodic reporting to UNESCO and to inform inspection missions relating to the World Heritage in Danger processes.