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UNESCO convenes in St Petersburg to consider Heritage sites

Submitted by on June 25, 2012 – 6:35 pm 17 Comments |  

Representatives of 21 nations convened in St Petersburg, Russia on June 24, 2012 to consider additional sites to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as well as to discuss measures for protection of 35 sites already listed. Since the founding convention in 1972, 935 sites located in 153 “state parties” (that is, countries that have signed and ratified the World Heritage Convention) have been included in the list. Of them, 725 are cultural sites, 183 are natural sites, and 28 are sites with mixed properties. Criteria for cultural heritage sites include “represent[ing] a masterpiece of human creative genius” and being “an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”; natural sites are selected for being “superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance” (there are altogether ten selectional criteria for Heritage sites of all types). Inclusion on the World Heritage List entitles the nations where the sites are located to apply for assistance in protecting the land. Among the forms of assistance are scientific study, grants and low-interest loans.

The nations participating in this year’s annual meeting of the World Heritage Sites Committee are Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, and United Arab Emirates. These countries are not necessarily the ones with the most Heritage sites, as can be seen from the map above. Italy has the most sites—47. Four other countries have more than 35 sites, three of them—Spain (43 sites), France (37 sites), and Germany (36 sites)—are in Western Europe; China with 41 site is the only non-European country in the top-5. (The area in northern South America colored in the darkest blue is French Guiana, part of France.) The top-10 list includes Mexico (31 site), India and United Kingdom (28 sites each), Russia (24 sites), and the United States (21 sites). The list of Heritage Sites in the U.S. includes Mount Vernon in Virginia (cultural) and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona (natural).

The meeting in St Petersburg will consider over 30 sites nominated for the inclusion in the list, including several sites in Russia, such as the Lena Pillars Natural Park in Yakutia (aka Sakha Republic; see image on the left) and Russia’s kremlins in several cities: Moscow, Astrakhan, Uglich, and Pskov. Some of the sites have been on the nomination list for quite some time: the Lena Pillars nomination was submitted in 2006, while Moscow Kremlin has been in the list for over 20 years). Another Russian nomination is called “Altai Golden Mountains” and includes several natural parks and… traditional throat singing! Additional sites to be considered are located in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Rabat (Morocco), and Grand-Bassam (Côte d’Ivoire). Also, this year’s list includes for the first time nominations in Qatar, Congo, Palau, Chad, and the Palestinian Authority (which as far as UNESCO is concerned, counts as a country). The Palestinian list of nominations includes several sites, such as the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, the Hisham Palace in Nablus, the city of Hebron, and even Qumran, which is under Israeli control. The Church of Nativity, a major tourist attraction in Palestinian Autonomy, was constructed by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325 CE over the cave where Jesus was supposedly born and is therefore widely considered to be one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world and the second-most important site in Christianity. The church has not been renovated in the past 50 years and needs repair work, which the inclusion in the World Heritage List could greatly help.

 

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  • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

    Asya the map is lovely as usual, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record and Steven Lewis and I went over this, computer mapping help calibrate it by population, area etc. In fact let me add UNESCO Heritage List to the following and get back to you

    http://blog.zolnai.ca/2011/07/illustrative-maps-in-current-affairs.html  

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks, Andrew. I try to use available Wiki maps whenever possible rather than make just like it from scratch.

      • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

        OK then, may I suggest you put a clickable link as source? I’ll probably blog the map I promised when I get to it. Got a day job too LOL

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          I put a source on the image, though it’s not clickable since I don’t know how to make it clickable in the image. We generally try to make sure the images and maps have proper attribution although sometimes we slip up in this department. Something for us to keep in mind, of course.

          • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

            I sent your websters a note to help you do that  :-p

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thanks, Andrew

  • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

    Asya here is the dynamic map I promised that goes with this:

    http://blog.zolnai.ca/2012/06/more-simple-maps-in-current-affairs.html

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks, Andrew! We are happy to leave some fodder for computer mappers ;)

      • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

        … and some fodder too! Did you notice how normalising against area mutes the differences by country, and normalising by pop. density actually reverses the trend? It move high World Heritage Site stats from populated countries (s.a. China) in plain numbers, to unpopulated ones (CDN and Oz) when compensated for pop. density and area!

        What I’m trying to say is that numbers are not what they seem, and maps are a great, if not the only, way to remove distortions. And for example politicians would not be amused, to have their nationalistic figures thus rectified LOL Seriously do you accept guest posts on matters complementary to yours?

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Yes, I read your post very carefully, Andrew. While juggling the figures in that way is interesting in and of itself, the resulting maps are not exactly relevant to the point of my post here. States that submit nominations—mostly poorer states at this point—do not seem to care about the number of sites already listed per unit of territory or per population size. They look at the list and say “hey, most of the sites are in rich, white countries (and China) and what about us? we have our own cultural heritage and pretty natural spots!”. The fact that they have a fair share of sites per territory doesn’t seem to matter. Given that there’s money to be had if a site is included in the list, it is not surprising that nominations come mostly for places that would like some extra cash. And of course for some the added bonus of extra recognition as a state may be welcome too.

          • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

            Understood, I wasn’t addressing your topic / argument per se – only trying to put those numbers in geopolitical context in case they mattered, and in this case perhaps not – I just find it important to raise the point even if it has no bearing here, as it may have one elsewhere. and one never knows until one asks.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Indeed. So I am glad you wrote that post in your blog. I would see if normalizing by GDP produces any more interesting results, though…

          • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

            that’s a great idea! let me pull those and get back to you…

          • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

            The promise extra data is posted here: http://blog.zolnai.ca/2012/07/even-more-simple-maps-in-current.html

  • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

    In response to Andrew Zolnai (below): Yes the implications for cartography are clear, but what have we learned about the spatial distribution of World Heritage Sites from this exercise, about the politics and economics behind them?

    • http://blog.zolnai.ca/ Andrew Zolnai

      … that is for you the historians and geographers to decide, I simply offer the tools.

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        Thanks, Andrew!