This overview of the key considerations for conserving World Heritage includes requirements under the World Heritage Convention and Australian legislation. There is an increasing emphasis on seeking synergies and harmonisation between various international agreements. Links to several best practice resources covering natural and cultural heritage are also provided.
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Key articles of the World Heritage Convention relating to conservation
Article 4 of the World Heritage Convention states:
Each State Party to this Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and co-operation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and technical, which it may be able to obtain.
Article 5 of the Convention states:
To ensure that effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory, each State Party to this Convention shall endeavor, in so far as possible, and as appropriate for each country:
- adopt a general policy which aims to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes;
- to set up within its territories, where such services do not exist, one or more services for the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage with an appropriate staff and possessing the means to discharge their functions;
- to develop scientific and technical studies and research and to work out such operating methods as will make the State capable of counteracting the dangers that threaten its cultural or natural heritage;
- to take the appropriate legal, scientific, technical administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage; and
- to foster the establishment or development of national or regional centres for training in the protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural and natural heritage and to encourage scientific research in this field.
Key paragraphs of the Operational Guidelines
The Operational Guidelines provide guidance on conservation management systems and sustainable use (Paragraphs 108-119). These guidelines are frequently updated to reflect decisions of the World Heritage Committee and the General Assembly of the States Parties.
Revisions to the Operational Guidelines have already included, among others, a reference to local communities and indigenous peoples in paragraphs 40 and 123, and in particular to their involvement in the conservation and management of a World Heritage property and in the nomination process.
Synergies and harmonisation with other international agreements
In 2015 the General Assembly (decision 20 GA 13) adopted the World Heritage Sustainable Development Policy (WH-SDP), following a World Heritage Committee decision (decision 39 COM 5D) to endorse a Policy Document for the integration of a sustainable development perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention. The WH-SDP provides guidance for States Parties to mainstream sustainable development principles in their national processes related to World Heritage to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties is not compromised. Changes will be made to the Operational Guidelines to reflect the policy. The text of the World Heritage Sustainable Development Policy can be found at:
Efforts are also being made by the secretariats of various international agreements to seek synergies and efficiencies. For example, in February 2016 a workshop was held for the organisations responsible for the 7 biodiversity-related conventions. The workshop considered a wide range of issues including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the science-policy interface, national reporting, monitoring and indicators, capacity building and the mobilisation and use of resources.
- Convention on Biological Diversity: Meeting Documents - Workshop on synergies among the biodiversity-related conventions
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature or IUCN has also prepared guidance on harmonising the integrated management system of areas designated under multiple international agreements: Ramsar Sites, World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks.
- New IUCN guidelines to harmonise management in natural areas with multiple international designations
According to the World Heritage Centre today, the existence of the network of properties on the World Heritage List is proving to be of the highest importance in monitoring changing conditions and advancing solutions on the ground. Issue 77 of the World Heritage Review was dedicated to climate change.
In December 2015 stakeholders from UNESCO sites, researchers, experts and policy-makers shared their experiences in an event to explore how the UNESCO-designated World Heritage properties, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks can serve as a global climate change field observatory.
Australian World Heritage management principles
As noted in the page about Protecting World Heritage, management arrangements for World Heritage properties in Australia need to be consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Convention. These requirements are interpreted in the World Heritage management principles contained in Schedule 5 of the EPBC Regulations.
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
- Federal Register of Legislation
The World Heritage management principles contained in Schedule 5 of the EPBC Regulations are as follows:
1 General principles
1.01 The primary purpose of management of natural heritage and cultural heritage of a declared World Heritage property must be, in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention, to identify, protect, conserve, present, transmit to future generations and, if appropriate, rehabilitate the World Heritage values of the property.
1.02 The management should provide for public consultation on decisions and actions that may have a significant impact on the property.
1.03 The management should make special provision, if appropriate, for the involvement in managing the property of people who:
- have a particular interest in the property; and
- may be affected by the management of the property.
1.04 The management should provide for continuing community and technical input in managing the property.
2 Management planning
2.01 At least 1 management plan should be prepared for each declared World Heritage property.
2.02 A management plan for a declared World Heritage property should:
- state the World Heritage values of the property for which it is prepared; and
- include adequate processes for public consultation on proposed elements of the plan; and
- state what must be done to ensure that the World Heritage values of the property are identified, conserved, protected, presented, transmitted to future generations and, if appropriate, rehabilitated; and
- state mechanisms to deal with the impacts of actions that individually or cumulatively degrade, or threaten to degrade, the World Heritage values of the property; and
- provide that management actions for values, that are not World Heritage values, are consistent with the management of the World Heritage values of the property; and
- promote the integration of Commonwealth, State or Territory and local government responsibilities for the property; and
- provide for continuing monitoring and reporting on the state of the World Heritage values of the property; and
- be reviewed at intervals of not more than 7 years.
3 Environmental impact assessment and approval
3.01 This principle applies to the assessment of an action that is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage values of a property (whether the action is to occur inside the property or not).
3.02 Before the action is taken, the likely impact of the action on the World Heritage values of the property should be assessed under a statutory environmental impact assessment and approval process.
3.03 The assessment process should:
- identify the World Heritage values of the property that are likely to be affected by the action; and
- examine how the World Heritage values of the property might be affected; and
- provide for adequate opportunity for public consultation.
3.04 An action should not be approved if it would be inconsistent with the protection, conservation, presentation or transmission to future generations of the World Heritage values of the property.
3.05 Approval of the action should be subject to conditions that are necessary to ensure protection, conservation, presentation or transmission to future generations of the World Heritage values of the property.
3.06 The action should be monitored by the authority responsible for giving the approval (or another appropriate authority) and, if necessary, enforcement action should be taken to ensure compliance with the conditions of the approval.
State and territory legislation
Additionally, State and territory governments manage their World Heritage properties in accordance with legislation relevant to the cultural and/or natural heritage these properties contain as well as through management arrangements and management plans. Refer to the website for the Australasian Legal Information Institute for the most current version of relevant Australian laws.
Best practice examples
Australian experts continue to make an important contribution to the development of best practice in World Heritage by preparing material for key reference documents aiming to build capacity in World Heritage management.
A climate change toolkit for World Heritage property managers in Australia has been developed in a collaboration of the CSIRO, Traditional Owners, property managers and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.
One such key reference published by the Australian National University is Protected Area Governance and Management (2015). It is a compendium of original text, case studies and examples from across the world, by drawing on the literature, and on the knowledge and experience of those involved in protected areas.
As highlighted in the international context above, conserving World Heritage plays an important role in demonstrating sustainable development in practice to a wide audience. For example, many people think that it is hard to make heritage buildings sustainable, when in fact retaining them saves building materials, carbon, energy and resources. The Sydney Opera House already has a 4 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia and is aiming for a 5 Star Green Star rating by 2023 when the building will be 50 years old.
The official advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee (ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN) together with UNESCO have also published a number of best practice resource manuals to guide the management of World Heritage properties. These are available on UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre website and include:
- Managing Cultural World Heritage (2013)
- Managing Natural World Heritage (2012)
- Managing Disaster Risks for World Heritage (2010)
ICOMOS is developing an on-line reference collection of benchmark “best practice” documents. It is being progressively assembled by and for members of the ICOMOS Scientific Committees. The entries identify the range of work being done world-wide to simultaneously advance the development of heritage principles and technical research that is worth sharing to assist the conservation of cultural heritage in all the ICOMOS fields of expertise.
Particularly relevant UNESCO World Heritage Papers for conservation include:
- World Heritage Cultural Landscapes: A handbook for conservation and management. (2009) UNESCO World Heritage Papers 26
- Enhancing our Heritage Toolkit. Assessing management effectiveness of Natural World Heritage sites. (2008) UNESCO World Heritage Papers 23
- Navigating the Future of Marine World Heritage. (2011) UNESCO World Heritage Papers 28
- World Heritage in a Sea of Islands. Pacific 2009 Programme. (2013) UNESCO World Heritage Papers 34
- Climate Change Adaptation for Natural World Heritage Sites. A Practical Guide. (2014) UNESCO World Heritage Papers 37
Guidelines for Management Planning of Protected Areas were published by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas in 2003, as part of a more comprehensive series, and are based on experience and best practice from protected areas around the world. The document provides a framework for protected area management planners.
IUCN is also adding to its online collection of best practice documents and has made available its databases (for example threatened species) online.
In 2012 the Australian Committee of IUCN published Keeping the Outstanding Exceptional: the Future of World Heritage in Australia.
The Burra Charter: the Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013 and the associated series of Practice Notes provide a best practice standard for managing cultural heritage places in Australia.
In 2014 the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (WHITRAP) created a web site dedicated to the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL).
- The Historic Urban Landscape
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
World Heritage Programmes
UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre website provides information on a number of activities including formal programmes to collate resources for different types of World Heritage properties. Among these are:
The World Heritage Marine Programme webpage has a number of helpful resources on World Heritage marine sites including a Best Practice Guide for site managers for marine spatial planning methodology, providing examples of its application in World Heritage marine sites, a managers’ network platform, State of Conservation reports for marine sites and a World Heritage Marine sites app.
The World Heritage Forest Programme webpage includes a number of resources especially on economic aspects of managing World Heritage sites.
The World Heritage Cities Programme aims to assist States Parties by developing a theoretical framework for urban heritage conservation, and providing technical assistance.
The UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme represents a new approach based on dialogue and stakeholder cooperation where planning for tourism and heritage management is integrated at a destination level, the natural and cultural assets are valued and protected, and appropriate tourism developed.