Viewing cable 06PARIS5276

06PARIS52762006-08-03 16:59:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Paris
Lucia A Keegan  08/04/2006 10:02:34 AM  From  DB/Inbox:  Lucia A Keegan

UNCLAS        PARIS 05276




DE RUEHFR #5276/01 2151659
R 031659Z AUG 06
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. Summary:  The World Heritage Committee, the 21-nation governing 
body of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, held its 30th 
Session in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 8-16, 2006. The Committee added 
eighteen cultural and natural sites to the prestigious World 
Heritage List and also decided to remove five sites and add two 
others sites to its List of World Heritage in Danger.  The new sites 
bring the total number of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List 
to 830.  In addition, the Committee approved the extension of two 
existing sites. 
Highlights of the meeting included: 
- The Committee reviewed twenty-nine proposals for the inscription 
of new sites to the World Heritage List.  Of these seven were for 
natural sites, twenty were cultural sites, and two mixed sites. 
- The Committee responded to the question of climate change impacts 
on World Heritage Sites.  In response to petitions received from 
NGOs requesting the addition of five sites in different regions 
around the world to the Committee's List of World Heritage in 
Danger, the Committee did not place the sites on the Danger List but 
instead adopted the recommendations of its expert working group 
which focused on helping participating nations develop strategies 
for adaptation and monitoring of climate change at World Heritage 
Sites worldwide. 
- Of particular interest to the U.S. Delegation, the Committee 
accepted benchmarks for the eventual removal of Everglades National 
Park from the Danger List and approved formal statements describing 
the significance of each of the 20 U.S. World Heritage Sites. 
- The Committee adopted a proposal aimed at reaching a better 
understanding regarding the meaning of Outstanding Universal Value, 
the Committee's threshold for judging the global significance of a 
- The Committee agreed to an extended period of study on the 
outcomes of the first-cycle of Periodic Reporting and possible 
adjustments to the process before beginning the next cycle.  The 
Periodic Report, a process in which State Parties report information 
on the status of their World Heritage sites and their implementation 
of the Convention, takes place on a 6-year reporting cycle. 
- In a departure from its usual practice, the Committee took votes 
on controversial topics twice.  At the request of the US delegation, 
the second vote was conducted by secret ballot and resulted in the 
Committee deciding to defer a cultural landscape nomination of a 
site in Southwestern France.  This was the first secret ballot 
conducted in 30 regular and 7 extraordinary sessions of the 
- A management audit of the World Heritage Centre, the Convention's 
Secretariat was requested by the US Delegation and unanimously 
agreed to by the Committee. 
- The U.S. Delegation was praised by many delegates and observers 
for the constructive role it played in the decision-making process 
and for its commitment to strengthen the quality of the World 
Heritage Program. 
End Summary 
¶2. U.S. Delegation 
The U.S. delegation included Department of the Interior Deputy 
Assistant Secretary Paul Hoffman, U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise 
Oliver, Deputy Director of the National Park Service Don Murphy, 
National Park Service Acting Chief of International Affairs Stephen 
Morris, and International Cooperation Specialist Jonathan Putnam. 
¶3. Voting 
In a departure from its long-time practice of making decisions by 
consensus, the Committee twice took votes on controversial issues. 
Tension was evident early in the meeting as the Committee reviewed 
State of Conservation reports for the 34 sites on the List of World 
Heritage in Danger.  The debate grew particularly contentious over 
the Algerian site of Tipasa which Algeria and several delegations 
representing developing countries believed should be removed from 
the Danger List.  Other delegations felt that removal of the site 
was premature since Algeria has not yet satisfied all the corrective 
measures, or benchmarks, agreed upon when the site was placed on the 
Danger List.  The debate highlighted the need for the Committee to 
be more specific in the language of its decision in laying out what 
particular actions it expects State Parties to complete before a 
site can be removed from the Danger List.  After seeking a legal 
opinion on what constitutes a two-thirds majority vote and a 
determination that the motion for removal from the Danger List had 
not gained the required majority, the Committee deferred 
consideration of the issue for a day to allow tempers to cool. 
Ultimately, the Committee reached a compromise in which the site was 
removed from the Danger List with the condition that unless the 
remaining benchmarks are reached by next February the site will be 
re-inscribed on the Danger List at the next Committee meeting. (A 
similar conditional approach was used for the inscription of an 
Omani site, the Aflaj Irrigation Systems, which was also somewhat 
controversial.  The decision in that case calls on the State Party 
to submit to the Committee by February 1, 2007 a management plan and 
confirmation of legal protection for the site.) 
The other vote followed a long debate on the French nomination of 
the cultural landscape of the Causses and the Cevennes, occupying 
several hundred thousand acres of southwestern France.  The Advisory 
Body recommended referral of the site for a number of reasons, but 
several Committee members, swayed in part by the site's association 
with the persecution of French protestants during the 17th century, 
argued for inscription.  The State Party was asked several times 
whether or not it would accept a referral or deferral allowing it 
the opportunity to bring back to the Committee a revised nomination 
in up to 3 years time, but the French Ambassador declined the offer 
in no uncertain terms stating his government's interest in having a 
clear decision from the Committee either inscribing the site or 
deciding not to inscribe it.  The Ambassador also made clear that 
the French government would not bring the nomination back in the 
event of a decision to refer or defer it.  Whether fairly or not, 
the response from the State Party was seen by a number of Committee 
members as a sign of French intransigence and unwillingness to meet 
the Committee half-way.  The inability to reach a consensus on the 
matter resulted in the second call for a vote, one in which the U.S. 
delegation requested voting be done by secret ballot.  The results 
of the vote made clear the lack of a two-thirds majority favoring 
inscription and facilitated the Committee decision to refer the site 
back to France for additional information.  The Committee's decision 
to reject immediate inscription of the French nomination was seen by 
some as an unusual turn about to the more common deference extended 
to the French government, which hosts UNESCO's headquarters in 
¶4. Climate Change 
In 2005, several environmental NGOs submitted a petition to the 
World Heritage Committee requesting that four World Heritage sites 
(Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal, 
Belize's Barrier Reef System, and Huscarn National Park in Peru) be 
included on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats from 
global climate change.  At the 29th Committee meeting in Durban in 
2005, the Committee responded to this petition by requesting the 
World Heritage Centre, the Convention's Secretariat, to organize an 
expert working group on the impacts of climate change on World 
Heritage, which was held in Paris in March 2006.  Immediately prior 
to the March experts' meeting, another petition was submitted to the 
Committee requesting that the Waterton-Glacier International Peace 
Park be put on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to climate 
change impacts there. 
The expert working group produced a report on "Predicting and 
Managing the Effects of Climate Change on World Heritage" and a 
"Strategy to Assist State Parties to Implement Appropriate 
Management Responses" which were presented to the Committee.  The 
strategy recommends preventative actions, corrective actions and the 
knowledge sharing by and between site managers and other 
In Vilnius, the draft Committee decision endorsed the 
recommendations of the expert working group, but did not 
specifically address the issue of the NGO petitions.  The U.S. 
therefore offered an amendment, approved by the Committee, which 
stated that decisions to list properties on the Danger List will be 
made on a "case-by-case basis" and in consultation with State 
Parties and the Advisory Bodies. 
The Committee's discussion on this issue was comparatively low-key. 
Peru expressed an interest in developing an alternative to the 
Danger List for dealing with Climate Change impacts (eventually 
incorporated into the Decision), and Israel wanted some more 
explicit references to the Kyoto Protocol (ultimately rejected by 
the Committee). 
On Monday, July 10 (before any decision had even been made), the BBC 
was reporting that the United States was "blocking" efforts to get 
the Committee to call for reductions in global carbon dioxide 
emissions.  The U.S. delegation made a statement expressing the 
United States' concern over this erroneous report, and called on all 
present to be more careful in their communications with the media. 
The Chair took the floor and strongly supported the U.S. position. 
Some other key components of the Committee's Decision on Climate 
Change include: 
- The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies were requested to 
develop proposals for the implementation of pilot projects at World 
Heritage sites that would develop best practices for implementing 
the Climate Change Strategy; 
- The Centre was requested to work with Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC) to include a chapter on World Heritage in the 
IPCC assessment reports; 
- The Centre was requested to prepare a policy document on Climate 
Change to be presented to the General Assembly meeting in 2007, to 
include considerations on legal issues pertaining to the role of the 
World Heritage Convention vis-`-vis Climate Change; linkages to 
other conventions and UN and other bodies; and alternatives to the 
List of World Heritage in Danger to address climate change impacts 
at World Heritage sites. 
¶5. World Heritage Sites in the U.S.: Everglades 
The Committee approved benchmarks regarding the environmental 
restoration effort ongoing for many years at Everglades National 
Park which will facilitate the Committee's consideration of removing 
the park from the List of World Heritage in Danger on which it was 
placed in 1993.  The benchmarks are specific, ecologically based 
measures that are achievable within the next several years, long 
before the restoration effort itself will be complete.  The 
Committee's official advisor on natural heritage sites, the World 
Conservation Union (IUCN), met with Department of the Interior and 
National Park Service officials at the park in April to develop a 
consensus proposal on the benchmarks for the Committees 
consideration.  Adoption of the benchmarks, signals the Committee's 
confidence in the efforts the U.S. is taking in addressing the 
problems facing the site. 
¶6. Name Changes and Statements of Significance for U.S. World 
Heritage Sites 
With little debate, the Committee approved a series of 
"housekeeping" measures pertaining to U.S. and Canadian sites, 
including minor name changes for several U.S. sites as well as the 
adoption of a formal statement of significance outlining the 
specific reasons why the site was inscribed on the World Heritage 
List.  The housekeeping issues were identified in the Periodic 
Report for North America adopted by the Committee at last year's 
meeting in Durban.  The statements, in a standard format, provide a 
rationale for how the site meets the specific criteria under which 
it was listed and, will serve, from now on, as an important 
reference for site managers and the Committee itself regarding 
threats facing the site's outstanding universal value. 
¶7. Outstanding Universal Value 
The Committee continued its discussion regarding the concept of 
outstanding universal value and how it has been applied by the 
Committee over the years.  The discussion was a follow-up to a 2005 
meeting of experts in Kazan, Russia as well as to the Committee's 
review and discussions of the Kazan report at its last session in 
Durban.  The discussion was given added relevancy by the Committee's 
debate on several nominations reviewed earlier in the meeting which 
highlighted the widely disparate views among its members on what 
constitutes outstanding universal value. 
The Committee's decision on this item requested the World Heritage 
Centre to compile a compendium of case studies outlining how each of 
the criteria for inscription had been successfully applied over time 
as well as a proposal for a training program on this topic for new 
Committee members.  The decision also calls on the Centre to propose 
a new format for tentative lists of potential future nominations by 
State Parties to the Convention as well as a meeting of experts to 
develop criteria for determining adequate protection and management 
for proposed sites, the format for State of Conservation reports, 
and, most importantly, standards for establishing and measuring 
benchmarks for conservation and removal from the Danger List.  The 
latter recommendation grew out of the difficult discussions on the 
Algerian site proposed for removal from the Danger List (see item 3, 
above) and others in a similar situation. 
¶8. Working Methods of the Committee 
In contrast to prior sessions in 2004 and 2005, at this meeting the 
Committee did an excellent job, under the guidance of its very 
capable chair, the Lithuanian Ambassador to UNESCO, Ms. Ina 
Marciulionyte, of keeping to its agenda and completing all of its 
business before the close of the meeting.  The Chair adopted several 
improvements that had been recommended in the past as a way of 
improving time management of the Committee's meetings, including the 
starting and ending the meetings on schedule, the use of a timer to 
limit speakers, and keeping to a minimum statements of 
congratulations and repetitive interventions making the same point. 
The Committee discussed the need to have the General Assembly of 
States Parties play the more substantive role in providing policy 
guidance to the Committee, a role to which it is assigned by the 
Convention, but which is hasn't been providing due to the fact that 
its sessions are now dominated by the elections of members to the 
Committee which take up the better part of two days.  In a bid to 
improve this situation, the Committee decided to add one full 
meeting day every two years devoted to issues to be presented to the 
General Assembly which meets biannually in conjunction with UNESCO's 
General Conference.  It also asked the World Heritage Centre to 
propose a new more efficient system for elections which would allow 
the General Assembly time during its meeting to consider substantive 
issues.  The Centre is directed to present its proposal both at next 
year's Committee session for comment and in final as a proposal to 
be adopted by the next General Assembly in October 2007. 
¶9. Pause in Periodic Reporting 
With the presentation and adoption of the European region's Periodic 
Report at its 30th session, the Committee has now adopted in a 
staged process similar reports from all regions of the world and 
fully completed the 6-year worldwide periodic reporting cycle 
started in 2000 with the Arab States.  Amending its decision adopted 
last year in Durban (at the request of the U.S. and Canada) to take 
a one-year pause before commencing anew with a 2nd cycle of Periodic 
Reporting, the Committee agreed to extend the pause to two years to 
allow greater time to adjust the reporting process and redesign the 
format for the report.  Its decision on this item empowers a small 
working group made up of Committee members, the Advisory Bodies, and 
the Secretariat to simplify the periodic reporting questionnaire as 
well as developing a format for progress reports on periodic 
reporting with clear objectives, benchmarks and results that 
facilitate global comparison and evaluation.  The U.S. supports 
simplifying the periodic reporting process. 
¶10. Management Audit 
During the discussion on performance indicators for World Heritage 
and as part of a review of the World Heritage Centre's budget, the 
U.S. Delegation requested that prior to developing a strategic plan 
for the Centre and a program for 'results-based management' an 
external management audit of the Centre be conducted.  It has been 
more than 5 years since the last audit was done.  The U.S. motion 
was adopted by the Committee. 
¶11. New Chair for Committee's 31st Annual Session 
The Committee elected New Zealand as Chair for its next session to 
be held in Christchurch, New Zealand, June 23-July 1, 2007.  Also 
elected as raporteur was John Pinkerton of Parks Canada, as well as 
Benin, Japan, Norway, Cuba, and Morocco as Vice-Chairpersons making 
up the Committee's Bureau. 
¶12. General Observations and Recommendations 
Many delegates and observers commented on the marked increase in 
regional factions which developed at the Vilnius meeting, partly as 
a result of blatant public political lobbying.  Many of the debates 
on whether or not to remove or place a site on the Danger List, on 
the inscriptions of new sites, and even on rather minor procedural 
questions, broke down along the "North-South" divide, with India, 
Kenya, Benin, and Tunisia the most regular representatives of the 
"southern" perspective. This, essentially, was that the Committee 
needs to be more lenient with State Parties, particularly in the 
developing world, both in procedural matters (like submitting their 
forms on time) and in much more substantive questions (whether or 
not a site truly is of Outstanding Universal Value or not).  These 
State Parties worried that many countries with sites on the Danger 
List saw that as a black mark which hindered conservation efforts, 
for example, and that the "under-representation" of developing 
countries on the World Heritage List means that the Committee should 
be more accommodating to nominations from that part of the world. 
Meanwhile, the "northern" perspective, most frequently voiced by 
Netherlands and Norway, was that the Committee has spent a lot of 
time developing criteria and guidelines and that these should be 
followed strictly to avoid undermining the credibility of the 
Convention and the Committee. 
The United States was praised by many (mostly behind the scenes) for 
the constructive role it played in many of these debates.  The 
calling for a secret ballot during the debate on the Caussess and 
the Cevennes nomination, for example, defused an increasingly 
contentious Committee.  The U.S., which has long argued that the 
Committee should be more focused on the conservation of existing 
sites rather than the inscription of new ones, also offered an 
amendment to take a "pause" in the inscription of new sites in 2008. 
 While the amendment was withdrawn, there appeared to be 
considerable interest by other State Parties in this idea, at least 
with possible modifications (e.g. allowing only countries with no 
existing sites to nominate). 
Other recommendations discussed informally by the U.S. Delegation to 
improve the effectiveness of the Convention and the Committee 
-  The Committee should consider having some of the reports on sites 
on the Danger List be for "no discussion" if conditions have not 
changed in the past year 
- There should be an "Introduction to World Heritage" for new 
Committee members 
- The Legal Advisor should be in the room at all times 
- The raporteur should have the ability to put amendments on the 
large screens so that all Committee members can read them (with 
changes clearly highlighted) 
¶13. Other Business 
During the course of the week, the U.S. Delegation met with other 
delegations on a variety of related topics.  For example, the 
Mexican Delegation initiated discussions on the possibility of a 
future joint World Heritage nomination focusing on the monarch 
butterfly migration between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.  The U.S. 
Delegation agreed to consider this possibility in the context of 
ongoing cooperative projects with Mexico and Canada.  Another brief 
discussion took place with the New Zealand Delegation who urged the 
U.S. to participate in efforts to bolster the implementation of the 
World Heritage Convention in the Pacific region, which is 
under-represented on the World Heritage List and has many new State 
Parties which are only now beginning efforts to develop tentative 
lists and inscribe sites.