39th Session of World Heritage Committee held in Bonn
The 39th session of the World Heritage Committee, held from 29 June to 8 July 2015 in Bonn, Germany, was chaired by Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office and member of the Bundestag. The agenda of the session included – among others – the protection and state of conservation of World Heritage sites in danger, the inscription of new sites on the World Heritage List and the World Heritage sustainable development strategy. The meeting was attended by the largest number of participants ever: 2.200 participants from 160 countries alongside 155 media representatives. Some 60 side events took place within and outside the conference venue, the World Conference Center Bonn, and a special issue of the World Heritage Review – World Heritage in Germany was published.
At the very first day (29 June) of the WHC session, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, launched the Global Coalition Unite for Heritage, designed to strengthen mobilisation in the face of deliberate damage to cultural heritage, particularly in the Middle East. The World Heritage Committee also adopted the Bonn Declaration which recommends that heritage protection be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions where appropriate. It calls on UNESCO to enhance its international leadership in coordinating the response to the protection of heritage in the event of armed conflict or natural disaster.
On the same day, Irina Bokova received a top-level delegation of Europa Nostra headed by Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President, and Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General, and composed of three Council members: Prof.Jacek Purchla, Director of International Cultural Centre (Krakow, Poland), Prof.Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Berlin, Germany), and Dr. Claus-Peter Echter, representative of Europa Nostra Deutschland and ICOMOS Germany. During this meeting, Irina Bokova and UNESCO Deputy responsible for Culture, Alfredo Perez de Armiñan, expressed keen interest in further strengthening the existing dialogue and cooperation between UNESCO and Europa Nostra. Europa Nostra representatives also expressed full support to the global Unite for Heritage Coalition and to the ongoing online campaign #Unite4Heritage of which Europa Nostra is one of the partners. On this occasion, Irina Bokova was presented with a copy of the just published book with the Full Report ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’ and was encouraged to disseminate worldwide its key findings via appropriate UNESCO channels. Irina Bokova also received a copy of the 2015 issue of the Europa Nostra Magazine “Heritage in Motion” which features an exclusive interview with the Director General of UNESCO.
The WHC Committee in Bonn was preceded by the NGO Conference organised on 26-27 June by a German-based NGO “World Heritage Watch” with the support of the German government and a number of German foundations. Europa Nostra was represented at this conference by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General, and Claus-Peter Echter, Council member. This conference adopted a special statement to the WHC on Civil Society Participation which was handed over to the Chair of the WHC and briefly presented at the plenary session of the Conference, followed by a firm statement by Minister Böhmer recognising the role of civil society for the safeguard of World Heritage. Europa Nostra will continue supporting the need to strengthen the participation of civil society within the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, in direct dialogue with UNESCO leadership and the World Heritage Center and also working closely with other representative organisations and networks of civil society committed to the safeguard of cultural and natural heritage.
During its session, the WHC inscribed 24 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and approved extensions to three existing sites. The new inscriptions bring to 1031 the number of sites inscribed in 163 countries on the World Heritage List.
The Committee also added three World Heritage sites to the List of World Heritage in Danger, namely Hatra in Iraq and two sites in Yemen: the Old City of Sana’a and the Old Walled City of Shibam. Los Katíos in Colombia was taken off the List of World Heritage in Danger to which it had been added in 2009.
The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 10 to 20 July 2016.