State Parties in the Pacific reassess their priorities concerning the World Heritage

UNESCO, in partnership with IUCN Oceania, is currently developing the fourth edition of the Pacific Regional World Heritage Action Plan 2021-2025. This Plan sets out the specific challenges, needs and opportunities for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and identifies national and regional priorities for the next five years.

“The development of the five yearly Action Plan is an important time for national and regional stakeholders to look at what has or hasn’t worked and to reassess priorities. A successful consultation period with national and regional stakeholders is now concluding and we’ve been pleased to see that countries are reflecting closely on how they wish to see better progress made with their World Heritage ambitions”, highlighted Mason Smith, Regional Director of IUCN Oceania

The Pacific region offers a unique contribution to the World Heritage community, through an enormous wealth of cultural diversity and island and marine biodiversity. This extraordinary heritage is often managed through traditional practices that reinforce the inseparable relationship between communities, cultures and the natural environment.

Most Pacific countries are States Parties to the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage, which aims to identify, protect, present and transmit natural and cultural heritage to future generations. The Convention provides structures and processes to enable States Parties to identify potential sites that are of Outstanding Universal Value, and sets out their role in protecting and preserving them. By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its national heritage.

“Strategies and efforts now need to focus on sustainable development through the World Heritage Sites by building active participation of the communities, private sector and wider government in the various processes related to the Convention. These would include their participation in management of existing World Heritage Sites, nomination of new sites, and development of monitoring and conservation practices suitable to the fragile ecosystems in the Pacific.” said Nisha, Director of the Office and UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States.

Following the completion of the Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting by all the State Parties to the Convention in the Asia Pacific Region, an inclusive dialogue was initiated with the governmental stakeholders linked to the Convention’s implementation. These recently held consultation dialogues have emphasised the capacity and resourcing challenges faced by Pacific countries. These are well known and can thwart progress on fulfilling agreements, with obligations under the World Heritage Convention being no exception. As a result, many previous actions for improved heritage recognition and protection have languished for some time.

With this in mind, a key principle emerging for the next Plan is to focus on a targeted set of priority actions that will support a bolder Action Plan and build a stronger platform for progressing actions. A further objective is to link together concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties, while enabling a dialogue between the diverse stakeholders from different Ministries and organisations.

“IUCN has noticed how the consultation activity for the Action Plan has been a small opportunity to reignite the collaborate spirit by bringing together various national stakeholders who have roles in planning, administering or managing World Heritage”, Mr. Smith continued.

Some key action areas for the next Plan raised through consultation will involve specific aspects of capacity development and training, reappraisal of tentative World Heritage lists, effective awareness campaigns, creating supportive legislation, expanding the thinking around funding, and improving communication and collaboration between responsible agencies and stakeholders.

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