RESOLUTION SPB/4: On the Threats to the Natural Heritage Properties

1. Participants of the International NGO Forum «Protection of UNESCO World Heritage Properties», having heard and discussed the reports and messages from NGOs around the world have concluded that

2. More and more World Heritage properties (both natural and cultural) are under threat of destruction or loss of their Outstanding Universal Value, which was the basis for their inscription on the World Heritage List.

3. These threats are exacerbated by

– lack of integrated state policy on the preservation of World Heritage properties;

– lack of national legislation to protect World Heritage properties at the national level;

– lack of an administrative framework to protect and manage World Heritage properties;

– lack of management plans, appropriate management structures and resourcing for World Heritage areas;

– commercial influence on and the legal irresponsibility of, the authorities responsible for making decisions connected with the control of World Heritage properties1;

– failure to comply legislation and/or modification of legislation to lower the level of legal protection afforded World Heritage properties2;

– lack (in some cases) of clearly defined borders of the World Heritage properties and their buffer zones;

– lack of public information (including mapping) on the boundaries, buffer zones and restrictions on economic activities within the World Heritage areas and buffer zones;

– lack of information and promotion of the benefits of World Heritage status to the community.

4. Agreements between State Parties to the Convention or Organizations of some state parties, which contravene article 6 of the Convention and/or ignore decisions of the World Heritage Committee which are likely to directly or indirectly result in damage to cultural or natural world heritage properties belonging to one of the state parties3.

5. Decisions by international credit-financial institutions to finance commercial enterprises that are directly or indirectly connected with activity that may lead to the destruction or degradation of World Heritage properties or to the lowering of their outstanding universal value4.

6. Insufficiently clear formulation of the World Heritage Convention and its working documents (in particular the Operational Guidelines to the Convention) can result in World Heritage Committee decisions being unduly influenced by political conjecture.

7. In a number of countries, sites of outstanding universal value, which satisfy one or more of the criteria of the Convention, are not recommended by the State party for inscription onto the World Heritage List due to existing plans for economic utilization of those sites. Furthermore, the Convention does not provide a mechanism for inscription of sites located outside national jurisdiction (e.g. parts of the Arctic).

8. In countries or regions where NGOs participate in management and monitoring of World Heritage properties, it is much harder for authorities and businesses to make decisions that destroy or degrade World Heritage properties.

9. Peaceful Civil activists, who are trying to defend World Heritage by ensuring authorities uphold existing legislation, are in some countries being harassed and intimidated by those authorities to withdraw.

10. The participants of the International NGO Forum in St. Petersburg June 22-24 2012 make the following resolutions. We recommend that the members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, having gathered for the 36th session, support the following:

11. Make publicly available information on any World Heritage Area, which meets one or more of the criteria outlined in paragraphs 179 and 180 of the Operational Guidelines (relating to ‘World Heritage in Danger’) and the steps the Committee is proposing to take to rectify the threats to the area.

12. Encourage IUCN to strengthen its gap analysis by assessing all countries against all World Heritage criteria and to consider establishing a co-operative framework between the advisory bodies and NGO’s to develop an inventory of areas likely to be of World Heritage Value but which have not been nominated by parties because of economic or political considerations.

13. Initiate the preparation of additions to the Convention to enable the inscription of sites located outside the national jurisdiction of parties. The Arctic should be a priority area for assessment and inscription once appropriate changes have been made to the Convention.

14. Ask the advisory bodies to develop guidance on national legislation for World Heritage.

15. Ask the World Heritage Center to engage with trans-national corporations and international financial institutions to ensure that they do not fund projects with the potential damage to Word Heritage properties.

16. Ask States parties to adopt the World Heritage committee policy that oil, gas and mining operations are incompatible with obligations to protect World Heritage sites.

17. Natural World Heritage Sites where particular concerns have been raised and requests made of the World Heritage Committee are the following:

18. RUSSIA, Various sites as outlined in the attached document

Call on the World Heritage Committee and Advisory Bodies to examine in detail and take action on, the critical issues raised about the failure of the Russian government to adequately protect areas of Outstanding Universal value within its territory. These concerns are outlined in detail in the attachment to this document.

Given the very large number of problems facing World Heritage Properties in Russia, convene a special workshop in which Russian NGO’s are invited to participate and outline the basis for their concerns and suggested remedies.

19. VIRUNGA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Democratic Republic of Congo

Call upon the World Heritage Committee to vote in favor of the draft Decisions 36 com 7A.36 COM 7A.4

Call upon the DRC Government to ensure that the provisions of the World Heritage Convention are upheld, and to explore alternative development models for Virunga area, which do not rely on oil exploration and development inside the current boundaries of Virunga National Park.

Call upon the State Parties of France, the United Kingdom, Russia and South Africa to commit to upholding their treaty obligations under the World Heritage Convention and to take all possible measures to ensure that companies headquartered in their territories do not conduct oil exploration or extraction activities inside the current boundaries of Virunga National Park nor inflict any indirect or direct damage to the cultural and natural heritage of the park.

Call upon all State Parties to the Convention,to impress this responsibility upon the State Parties of France, the United Kingdom, Russia and South Africa.

20. TANSMANIAN WILDERNESS WORLD HERITAGE AREA, Australia

Call upon the State Party of Australia to immediately implement a moratorium on logging in areas of forest adjacent to the existing World Heritage site, which have previously been identified by IUCN as having World Heritage values.

Further call upon the State Party of Australia to immediately begin a World Heritage nomination process to include these threatened forests into the World Heritage area.

21. GREAT BARRIER REEF, WORLD HERITAGE AREA, Australia

ENDORSES the letter written by Australian NGO’s to the World Heritage Committee supporting the adoption of draft decision 36 COM 7B.85

FURTHER CALL upon the State party of Australia to immediately implement the recommendations of the Reactive Mission Report.

22. BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSCHA, Belorussia

Re-iterate the urgent need to expand the World Heritage property “Belovezhskaya Puscha” in Belarus and provide broad public participation and control over the whole process.

23. GOLDEN MOUNTAINS OF ALTAI, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China, Russia

Recommends that the World Heritage Committee endorse the initiative of an expanded Golden Mountains of the Altai World Heritage site , including Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Further recommends that the World Heritage Committee assist in providing technical and financial support for this initiative.

Further recommends that the World Heritage Committee facilitate and provide organizational and financial support in 2013th year a technical workshop including experts and representatives of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China to further progress the concept of an expanded Golden Mountains of the Altai World Heritage site to incorporate appropriate areas of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China.

Further suggests that the World Heritage Committee encourage other UN organizations and programs, such as, inter alia, UNDP and FAO, to support the sustainable use of natural resources by populations living in the territories to be added to the Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage Property.

St. Petersburg, 24 June 2012

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1 In Russia and some other countries this is aggravated by corruption, for instance an official from the Ministry of Natural Resources , was arrested while receiving a bribe to allow construction on the territory of Zabaikalsky National park (“Baikal Lake” World Heritage property)

2 In particular in Russia the Federal Law FZ № 365 and amendments to the Federal laws «on specially protected natural areas» and «on environment protection» were adopted.

3 For example the President of France has signed a Memorandum under which the French State Bank CDC will finance the construction of the mountain ski resort on the territory of the Western Caucasus World Heritage property (Russian Federation) in defiance of the decision of the 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee;
The Government of the Peoples Republic of China has signed preliminary agreements with the Government of the Russian Federation to construct the “Altai” gas pipeline through the territory of the “Golden Mountains of Altai” World Heritage property in defiance of the decision of the 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee;

4 For example the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development gave credit to the company GV Gold, in spite of the fact that its affiliate company planned to mine gold on the territory of the “Virgin Komi Forests” World Heritage property violating the decisions of the 34th and 35th Sessions of the World Heritage Committee. The World Bank plans to invest money in construction of the hydropower stations in the Selenga River basin in Mongolia are likely to damage the “Lake Baikal” World Heritage property.

5 See letter attached.

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