IUCN Statement | 28 Jun, 2015

Statement by IUCN Director General on the Bonn Declaration on World Heritage

IUCN wishes to express its full support to the Bonn Declaration on World Heritage, agreed today by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting taking place in Germany. IUCN also welcomes the Global Coalition for the Protection of Cultural Heritage 'Unite4Heritage' launched today by UNESCO.

The assault on heritage is a global issue. IUCN stands with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee and all the Parties to the World Heritage Convention in condemning the outrageous deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, including the deliberate targeting of individuals based on their cultural, ethnic or religious background, as well as attacks on their cultural assets or assets of earlier civilisations.

We also express our strong solidarity with countries and communities whose cultural and natural heritage is being damaged by and lost to conflict, and to natural disasters. IUCN works directly in most of the countries affected and our member organisations know well the realities faced when disaster strikes, and the importance of resilient cultural and natural heritage in recovery.

The Bonn Declaration confirms that the impact of conflict and natural disasters affects cultural and natural sites. Many natural World Heritage sites listed as being ‘In Danger’ have this status directly as a result of past and ongoing conflicts. Natural World Heritage sites, valued for their natural beauty, geology, biodiversity and ecological processes, are endangered by over-exploitation of natural resources due to civil unrest and armed conflicts. These conflicts also have an intolerable human cost, including on those people who protect our natural heritage. Only in the last 10 days we have heard of two examples of armed attacks on the wardens of World Heritage Areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo resulting in 19 people losing their lives while defending the parks, with devastating impacts on their families.

All actors in the World Heritage Convention need to work in concert to tackle these challenges, and advocate for the international community as a whole to act to protect our common heritage, and all those people who ensure its protection. The Bonn Declaration on World Heritage and Unite4Heritage give new focus to the urgent action required.

Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General
29 June 2015