National and international experts gathered last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to discuss the importance of nominating biodiversity-rich areas of Central Asia as World Heritage sites, therefore recognising them as our planet’s most outstanding places of importance for all the humanity.
IUCN and the National Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic for UNESCO brought together experts from all five Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation, international organisations, CSO, and UNESCO Advisory Bodies to discuss the nomination of properties and requirements for inscription on the World Heritage List under biodiversity criteria. Particular focus was given to comparative analysis as a centrepiece of the nomination dossier. “The nomination process is long and requires dedication. When nominating a World Heritage site you commit to the rest of the world you will protect that site forever,” reminded Joseph King, Sites Unit Director of ICCROM.
IUCN presented main findings of the “World Heritage Thematic Study for Central Asia” identifying sites of global significance for biodiversity that could potentially qualify for World Heritage status, be it new or already inscribed sites with potential for extension. Nominating sites such as the Northern Tien Shan, Southern Ustyurt Plateau, Cold Winter Deserts of Central Asia or Badhyz and Kopetdag mountains would significantly contribute to filling some broad gaps identified by IUCN in its 2013 study on terrestrial biodiversity and the World Heritage List.
Natural World Heritage sites are inscribed because of their superlative values relating to scenery and other natural phenomena, be it geology, ecosystems or biodiversity and as such require proper management. In order to help managers in the region understand and incorporate the principles and norms of World Heritage into sites’ management IUCN presented the “Managing Natural World Heritage” resource manual now available also in Russian.
The evening programme at the Union of Artists Exhibition Hall of the Kyrgyz Republic provided an opportunity for the public to learn about World Heritage process in Central Asia, and more specifically about the importance and values of Western Tien Shan. Exploring the potential for ecotourism in that area, renown speleologist Alexei Dudashvili presented his study "The geological heritage of the Western Tian Shan – the basis for the conservation of biodiversity and the development of ecotourism," published in collaboration with UNDP Kyrgyzstan.
This workshop was organized as part of the project “Achieving Excellence in the Nomination and Management of World Heritage in Central Asia”, funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry’s Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) for environmental protection in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and other countries neighbouring the European Union. It is supervised by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) and implemented by IUCN ECARO and the IUCN World Heritage Programme. The evening reception was hosted in collaboration with UNDP Kyrgyzstan and the UNDP/GEF project “Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods”.