More support needed to boost Arab natural World Heritage

With only two natural sites added to the World Heritage List in 15 years there is a need to review the process of nominating natural World Heritage Sites in Arab States, a new IUCN report has found.

Emperor angelfish in the Red Sea, Egypt

The regional study builds on the findings of last year’s Periodic Report coordinated by UNESCO and concentrates on getting nature specialists more involved. IUCN examined the current state of conservation for the existing natural and mixed World Heritage sites in the Arab region and analyzed its tentative lists – lists that include areas that each country considers suitable for inscription.

“The Arab States are home to an exceptional natural wealth and diversity, with striking desert landscapes and marine areas,” says Haifaa Abdulhalim, IUCN’s World Heritage Officer in the Arab States. “But the number of natural sites currently on the World Heritage List is by far the smallest of any region. The process of nominating natural sites in the Arab region needs a major overhaul if we want to see more of them on the World Heritage List.”

There are currently four natural and one mixed site from the Arab States on the World Heritage List. Only two sites have been added to the list in the last 15 years while the region’s tentative lists have grown and currently include 35 sites.

According to the report, Arab States should revise their World Heritage plans to give priority to natural sites that are most likely to meet World Heritage requirements and provide rigorous justification for this potential.

The report also reviewed management of natural sites that are already on the World Heritage List in the Arab States. Although significant progress has been made in the way these sites are managed, some are facing serious challenges.

In Banc d’Arguin, for example, more effective measures are needed to control the risk of accidental oil spills which may threaten the park’s wintering waterbirds and mammals, including the critically endangered Monk Seal. In Socotra, often referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the East’, the unique vegetation and ecosystems have been under increasing pressure due to the development of infrastructure and tourism.

“By continuing to improve the management of these sites and by increasing cooperation between countries to support them, World Heritage Sites in Arab States can greatly contribute to conservation and sustainable development in the region,” says Mariam Kenza Ali, IUCN World Heritage Conservation Officer.

To view the report, please go to:

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Haifaa Abdulhalim, World Heritage Officer, IUCN Regional Office for West Asia, e [email protected]
Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 857 4072, e [email protected]
Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, e [email protected]

About IUCN’s work on World Heritage
Each year IUCN, the independent advisory body on nature to UNESCO, reports to the World Heritage Centre on the conservation status of certain natural and mixed World Heritage sites under threat. IUCN’s assessments on what is happening in World Heritage sites are derived from a variety of sources: IUCN members, indigenous peoples groups, the scientific community, experts from IUCN commissions and concerned individuals and organizations. 

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Work area: 
Protected Areas
World Heritage
World Heritage
North America
West Asia
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