Press release | 28 Jun, 2009

World Heritage in Danger - IUCN

The Danger List of World Heritage Sites needs radical change if is to remain an effective conservation tool, according to a report released today by IUCN.

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Photo: Jim Thorsell

Under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage Committee can inscribe sites under serious threat on the List of World Heritage in Danger. It is intended to be a constructive conservation tool, which mobilizes the international community to support national efforts.

But according to the IUCN report, World Heritage in Danger, putting a site on the danger list is often seen by Governments as criticism resulting in frequent opposition to its use. According to IUCN, the List of World Heritage in Danger needs to be re-established as a way to ensure and maintain credible standards for protecting the world’s natural and cultural treasures

“The World Heritage List in Danger is not working as it was intended, and it needs an overhaul,” says Tim Badman, IUCN’s Special Advisor on World Heritage. “There are good examples of how the List has led to positive conservation action, but more often than not its use is resisted. We want to change the way the Danger List is used, so that it turns international concern into real conservation results.”

Earlier this week, at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, two natural sites, Los Katios National Park and the Belize Barrier Reef were added to the Danger List, but a third threatened site was not included.

The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra was not added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, despite IUCN’s recommendation. Over the past four years, IUCN has conducted three monitoring missions and has recommended the site to be included on the danger list since 2004, the year of its inscription on the World Heritage List. The reports from the monitoring missions show that Indonesia’s last remaining intact forest wilderness needs an emergency restoration plan. Road construction, illegal logging, poaching, uncontrolled tourism, as well as insufficient support from the government, are among the threats facing the site.

“The new listings are a positive move for conservation, but it is a missed opportunity that the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra has not been added to the list of World Heritage in Danger,” says IUCN’s Tilman Jaeger. “The situation fundamentally threatens the survival of key species, such as the Sumatran tiger, rhino, orangutan and elephant. We need to restore the idea that the danger list is not a black mark for countries, but a way of drawing attention and providing support to the sites that need it the most.”

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