Coincidentally with my comments today about the Arab/Islamic "bloc" operating within the WHC ( http://www.worldheritagesite.org/forums/index.php?action=vthread&forum=8&topic=1855
) I have just come across a paper on the very subject of the operation of such blocs and the tendency of the WHC to become more and more "politicised" – "States of Conservation: Protection, Politics, and Pacting within UNESCO's World Heritage Committee"
by Lynn Meskell., Stanford University
It was written following the 2013 Phnom Penh WHC (the author also attended at Paris and St Petersburg) and contains examples of the issues discussed (or not "discussed"!) at that meeting. As this session was live-cast, those of us who followed it will be able to relate to the issues and may find the author's background insights of particular interest.
A few quotes
a. "my own contribution specifically traces the international political pacting, national economic interests, and voting blocs through which particular states increasingly set the World Heritage agenda and recast UNESCO as an agency for global branding rather than global conservation
b. WHC "representatives have shifted from being archaeological and environmental experts to almost exclusively state-appointed ambassadors and politicians
c. "The pretence and performance of the global are actually undercut by intensely statist arrangements and agreements by some nations secured well before the World Heritage Committee meetings each year.
d. "Blocs can be forged on continental, regional, religious, economic, and even former colonial relationships. Political pacting not only serves to ensure inscription for Committee members' own national sites, but also prevents threatened sites from being transferred to the List of World Heritage in Danger
e. "throughout recent World Heritage Committee meetings, national agendas have eclipsed substantive discussions of the merits of site nominations"
f. "Figure 1 demonstrates, over the past decade there has been an increasing trend toward the divergence between ICOMOS and IUCN recommendations with regard to site nominations and the subsequent Committee decision. Moreover, analysis clearly shows in Figure 2 that divergence is even more marked when the nominating nation is represented on the World Heritage Committee.
g. "Collective decision-making and the overarching responsibility for the conservation of sites, once the remit of national delegates with heritage expertise, have been replaced by excessive backstage lobbying by politicians and the bargaining power of nations with geopolitical alliances based on geography, religion, trade partnerships, or anti-Western sentiment
h. "One ICOMOS expert confided that because of Committee pushback, they had been advised to soften any negative expert recommendations in the State of Conservation reports. That trend was observed publicly this year by the delegate from Estonia who remarked on the laxity of the expert recommendations for high profile nations like China and Russia.
Site examples used include
a. Syrian WHS - "protected" by Russia
b. Panama Viejo - "protected" by BRICS nations – the amusing analysis of the surreal inaccuracy of the discussions will ring true to those who sat through such discussions on the live cast!
c. Solomon islands – "protected" by nobody!!
Here is the link to the article - http://www.networkedheritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/AQ_Meskell.pdf