World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Forum: Start | Profile | Search |         Website: Start | The List | Community |
What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? Forum / What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? /  

The Americas T Lists

Author Assif
#1 | Posted: 28 Oct 2009 01:50 
I know this has been raised before but still I would be interested in discussing this in a bit more detail. While there are countries which succeed in exploiting their potential (Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba), others are slouching behind.

I'd like to put forward some specific countries:

Peru - greatest riddle to me. How come a country with such a vast scale of natural and archaeological sites of great value only offers a short and unexhaustive T list? Any ideas?

Belize, Guyana - why do these English speaking countries don't even offer a T list? Belize for example would have great Maya sites to offer.

USA - why doesn't the US propose any of its great modernist monuments on its T list? I know many Americans fear loosing autonomy to Unesco but some iconic sites like the Golden Bridge don't seem to suffer from such a prejudice and still aren't proposed. Why?

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 28 Oct 2009 05:18 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Some comments by country
This link provides an interesting history of Guyana's attempts to gain an inscribed site. d/5298365
Having been to Kaieteur, I feel that Guyana was badly treated by IUCN – although it was perhaps unfortunate that they made the proposal at the same time as Suriname's enormous site. But IUCN has "form" for taking perhaps too blinkered and pedantic a view of proposals. Kaieteur Falls as a natural sight are, just by themselves, awe inspiring – and Mosi oa Tunya and Iguassu (twice!) are inscribed solely in their own rights! Ok so, for strict conservation reasons, IUCN would have liked a larger area but what have they achieved by rejecting it? Certainly they haven't helped preservation of the area in the intervening period and, despite what the linked article states about the idea of a "cluster site" including Iwokrama, such a site is not on Guyana's T List. Sometimes it is better to bring such countries "inside" rather than banish them outside! I don't really see how a cluster site actually overcomes IUCN's "size" issue for Kaieteur. Iwokrama too is fine example in its own right of its ecological niche and also as an example of how countries like Guyana CAN do excellent jobs in both preserving sites and presenting them for an ecotouristic experience -it is one of the better places to go to see Jaguar. Having been to Iwokrama too I feel it is the equal of many other Natural WHS around the world. If you ever get the chance to see the BBC documentary "Lost land of the Jaguar" it has magnificent footage of Kaieteur – some is shown as clips here
Whether "Historic Georgetown" will ever make it is another matter. I note that Georgetown currently has 4 separate tentative list sites! The length of time it took, with international assistance, to bring Stonetown to inscription is indicative – and Stonetown is far more on the World's tourist routes than Georgetown.

A basic question is why would the USA want to have sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge on the UNESCO list? Many of the "drivers" which motivate inscription in other countries don't really apply to the same degree in USA. Remember also that the US has a law which prevents any private land being included in a nomination unless its owner agrees! For many of the same reasons I think we will see a growing trend against inscription among other developed countries – I see Ireland is having big problems getting local support to put forward Clonmacnoise and we still await the results of UK's "consultation" as to whether /how much it should continue to propose sites. You might find these minutes of a US Dept of State teleconference about which sites should be on its new T list "instructive"!
The ultimate choice of Papahanaumokuakea for 2010 would seem to be aimed at burnishing USA's green credentials but the other proposal for Mt Vernon is very surprising – only the USA would come back into the WHS game with a proposal for a site which is primarily about a "National Hero" when it knows that it has to downplay that aspect, and the above committee didn't even support it for inscription! For background see

I think Peru is progressing a couple of sites – Qhapaq Ρan and Pachacamac? But the latter for instance is in a poor state – what does a relatively poor country do in such a case? Put an "unready" site forward to help gain assistance etc after inscription but get it rejected for all sorts of management reasons or try to put everything right first but without the extra assistance which being UNESCO inscribed might bring (though they are, as of 2010 getting WMF assistance which may presage the site's nomination in a few years)? And is there any good reason for putting forward a long T List when only one or 2 can be pursued at a time? Is Peru out of line with other "second tier" Latin American countries (or even similar countries from other continents)? Bolivia has just walked into a minefield with its restoration of Tiwanaku thus demonstrating the difficulties for countries which have many more pressing problems to deal with than preserving inscribed sites - all that happens is that they receive World wide condemnation and derision from UNESCO/ICOMOS rather than quietly provided practical help! And don't forget that Peru did succeed in 2009 after all so you would expect a few more years to pass before it gets another inscription.
(PS This 2005 National Geographic Web post said that UNESCO nomination of Pachacamac had "been stalled by disputes over the site's official limits." - )

Seems to be having problems keeping its only site properly preserved at the moment according to recent reports about developments on the Reef! As for its Mayan sites – might it not justifiably fear ICOMOS stating that the sites are not that special compared with the reasonable number of Mayan sites already inscribed?

Author m_m
#3 | Posted: 31 Oct 2009 05:23 
Aside from Latin American countries, take note that there are also examples in other regions. In Europe, the "small" countries which have regularly placed one site per year in the 1990s have fizzled out, like Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden, and even South Africa. Also, Russia has struggled to put sites on the List lately. In the case of the "small" European countries, I think that the scenario is reflective of the trend in World Heritage nomination since its inception. During the first few years, countries have an easy time nominating places with high degree of success, since their initial proposals are the most famous and most well-known places that are treated as benchmarks. This means that the nomination is like a formality, it's just a matter of putting together all the infos which are already available from expert studies and greater visibility and familiarity among the evaluators. As these "famous" sites are used up, the countries are forced to look at the remote, unknown corners of their territories to see whether they missed something. But in nominating these unknown places, they encounter serious obstacles. The unknown places mean that no serious studies have taken place to document the sites' history and comparative importance. The government might have even overlook their importance, hence, no management plan, legal protection and other mechanisms have been established. Thus, the effort and the cost to place these sites on the WH List is greater, not to mention the time spent, as well as the increased probability that all the time and effort spent might even result to deferral or rejection. The current policy of just having one cultural nomination per year also has contributed to this, further decreasing a country's chance to have a site listed. Hence, countries which have regularly succeeded in nominating sites on the List annually might eventually just show up to nominate sites every certain number of years. Even large countries, which theoretically still have a lot of places within their territories to nominate, have been affected. Russia had several unsuccessful attempts to place natural sites on the List. Australia and Canada only show up oncee every three to four years to nominate sites.

Meanwhile, minus the hiccups encountered in 2009, China, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are still managing to find ways to get sites on the List annually. China has regularly put one natural and one cultural site on the List since 2006, while France has decided to take advantage of "expanding" its territories by nominating natural sites from its overseas territories. Germany and Spain meanwhile have not really had regular inscriptions on the List as they have increasingly made use of extensions and modifications to expand their listed WHS. Italy is taking advantage of using transfrontier nominations to expand its list. Mexico was a no show in 2009 but it could come back in 2010. India and UK got derailed with seemingly stubborn nominations that have little chances of succeeding for now (Majuli Island for India and Darwin lab for UK).

Among the "small" countries that have recently been active are Iran and Switzerland. In the case of Iran, it's interesting that it became a regular nominator on the List in this decade, when Ahmadinejad came into power. Is this a reflection of Iranian nationalism, the continued nomination of sites one year after another? South Korea has been nominating sites regularly in the past two years too, while Japan has been lagging behind lately. Its pattern of nomination has been similar to Australia and Canada, showing up every few years or so.

In addition there are several countries which I think have been under-performing. Like Peru, these countries definitely have a lot more potential sites within their territories, but for some reasons have either been inactive or unsuccessful in putting forward nominations: Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia and Turkey. Although for Egypt, I have my partial reservations. It seems that almost all pharaonic sites along the Nile Valley less Alexandria have already been grouped together on the proclaimed World Heritage Sites in 1979. For Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic nation, there are so many potential places to nominate, it's like each island or island group could end up having one or two potential World Heritage Sites. The fact that it is at the crossroads of biodiversity (between the Australian/Gondwanan and Indomalayan realms) and culture (stepping stones for aboriginal migration, hundreds of unique languages and culture, including tribes that still practice Stone Age rituals, add to that the European dimension introduced during the colonial era) means that the country has a large potential, I might say even comparable to the Chinese or Indian efforts. And yet, the larger Southeast Asian region has managed to irregularly get just one or two WHS annually in recent years.

Author Solivagant
#4 | Posted: 31 Oct 2009 14:21 | Edited by: Solivagant 
During the first few years, countries have an easy time nominating places with high degree of success, since their initial proposals are the most famous and most well-known places that are treated as benchmarks. This means that the nomination is like a formality, it's just a matter of putting together all the infos which are already available from expert studies and greater visibility and familiarity among the evaluators.

I am not sure that either the list of early inscribed sites or the available documentation fully supports this thesis!! Consider
1978 - Wieliczka Salt Mine, Nahanni,
1979 - Madara Rider, Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Rock Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Boyana, Vezelay
1980 - Dormitor, Tiya, Bosra, Roros
1981- Niokolo-Koba, Quirigua, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
1982 - M'zab, Tai NP
In fact the very early years provided an extremely easy ride for gaining inscription for sites which can by no means be called "the most famous and most well known places that are treated as benchmarks". I am not necessarily saying that the above sites have no merit but they, and many others from those early years, are hardly the material for "world class benchmarking" and some might even struggle to justify their OUV today.
Nomination was almost a formality not necessarily because the sites were unarguably famous etc but because the standards of evaluation and the documentation required were so much "lighter". I might suggest that Egypt would find it difficult today to get The Pyramids inscribed! For a start they would have to produce a good few gB of documentation and I doubt if their buffer zones, management plans etc would stand up to scrutiny (probably quite justifiably so too!)
The reason why it is more difficult to get sites inscribed today is not all because the barrel is being scraped for less well known places which are, as a result, less well looked after/studied than the famous sites inscribed earlier. If Myanmar ever gets round to nominating Pagan - a site which surely is the equal of any on the list, the degree of scrutiny and the requirements they will have to meet will be far greater than any site, famous or not, had to face in the first 10-15 years or of the scheme. One AB review I find particularly amusing from those early years is that for the Wurzburg Residence (inscribed in 1981). ICOMOS states "The inclusion of Wurzburg Residence in the WH list constitutes a measure wihch is so clearly desirable that the Federal Republic of Germany does not require a lengthy justification" - so no worries about management plans, authenticity, pressures from development/environment or tourism, ownership, legal protection, disaster plans, etc etc there then! Countries could nominate sites knowing that this was the level of "justification" required!

On another matter. Hasn't Egypt "missed out" a fair number of its potentially inscribable "pharaonic" sites between Cairo and Thebes, Thebes and Aswan and in the desert oases?
e.g Abydos, Armana, Dendera, Beni Hasan, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Fayoum, Kharga etc most of which (and many others) are queuing on the Egyptian T List! Many are the equal in magnificence of archaeological sites inscribed elsewhere around the World - but i guess one can just have too much of good thing from one country! Egypt doesn't seem to be very active at bringing them forward as far as I know?

Author Assif
#5 | Posted: 31 Oct 2009 18:44 
It's the same problem we've discussed so many times before, namely that each country is sovereign to make its own decisions regarding filing the nominations. Poorer countries like Peru, Egypt, Indonesia and Iraq are by far less successful with their nominations compared with wealthier countries like Sweden, Finland, Switzerland etc. despite the fact the former (may the latter forgive me) have far more to offer UV-wise.
It's such a shame Unesco shy away almost completely from supplying guidelines as to what is looked for (and is still missing). It's true there are a few general plans like the Pacific Plan and the Filling Up the Gaps report but both seem to have very little effect, so it seems to me. The gaps in the list are still extreme: Europe's share is highly exaggerated while other parts of the world (Americas, Pacific, Central Asia, Africa, SE Asia) are strongly underrepresented, 20th Century architecture and technology are very scarce compared with other historical eras, natural sites are much too few compared with cultural sites etc, etc.
The saddest thing is that the changes (if at all present) are very slow and partial. This year's nominations were half (!) European (6/13), with only one from the Americas, two from Africa, one for Central Asia and none from the Pacific and SE Asia. Not a single nomination from the 20th Century and only two natural sites. How can this be settled with the report published only a few years ago?? Here goes closing up the gaps.
I think the change can only come with a stronger management from above but I'm also equally sure of Unesco's reluctance to impose its guidelines on member states, favouring some on top of the others. The consequence is that gaps in the list will probably remain as they are today.

Author winterkjm
#6 | Posted: 23 May 2012 00:50 
I think Peru is progressing a couple of sites – Qhapaq Ρan and Pachacamac? But the latter for instance is in a poor state – what does a relatively poor country do in such a case? Put an "unready" site forward to help gain assistance etc after inscription but get it rejected for all sorts of management reasons

A new discovery in Peru may improve Pachacamac's chances for inscription. Hopefully, the site boundaries and buffer zone can be finalized. 7733090/?spt=hs&or=sn

Author winterkjm
#7 | Posted: 19 Sep 2012 05:25 
Plenitude under the sky. Park of Pre-Colombian Stone Spheres (Costa Rica) ta-rica/13242

Perhaps seeking inscription in 2014?

What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? Forum / What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? /
 The Americas T Lists

Your Reply Click this icon to move up to the quoted message

Only registered users are allowed to post here. Please, enter your username/password details upon posting a message, or register first. Forum Powered by Chat Forum Software miniBB ®