The next media error about WHS which I have noticed comes from the English newspaper "The Guardian" (Oct 1 2009).
This article about the Saxon villages in Romania is quite interesting - to myself in particular as it is already 10 years since I visited a number of them and I have been following in the media as best I can the significant changes which have occurred there. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/01/romania-saxon-conservation-villag e
(Those of you who follow this Web site's "Connections" will already know of the UK Prince of Wales's interest in the villages as referred to by Jenkins - see http://www.worldheritagesite.org/tags/tag317.html
Simon Jenkins is a reputable, even noteworthy, UK journalist and TV broadcaster and has at least researched this subject "on location" in person (but for only 1 day??) rather than totally at a distance from second hand sources. But his knowledge of the World Heritage Site aspect is somewhat lacking.
He states "Unesco has designated some of the Saxon churches as world heritage sites, as has the Romanian government, but not the villages."
Leaving aside the strange "concept" that the Romanian government has, as well as UNESCO, designated some of the churches as WHS, it is of course not correct that only the churches are designated ("Inscribed").
The history of the site whose current correct title is "The Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania"
shows that Romania did indeed first attempt to gain inscription for just 1 fortified church - at Biertan. However UNESCO's June 1991 Bureau meeting "felt that it was necessary for it to be afforded satisfactory legal protection, particularly with regard to the proposed protective perimeters." Accordingly in 1993 the site was inscribed as "Biertan and its Fortified Church"
with a significant part of the village of Biertan having been added. In 1999 a further 6 "villages"
(each with a fortified church) were added and the inscribed area of Biertan village was extended (but all this only after referral back in July 99 for improved management plans which were provided in time for inscription in Dec 99).
This is all fully documented on the UNESCO Web site so, quite where Jenkins got his information that only the churches were inscribed isn't clear - he certainly didn't check with UNESCO!
The ICOMOS evaluation for the 1999 extension is interesting reading however in the light of the subsequent events as reported by Jenkins. ( http://whc.unesco.org/archive/advisory_body_evaluation/596bis.pdf
ICOMOS clearly had concerns about the ability of Romania adequately to manage and protect the site. The Periodic Review of 2006 doesn't appear however to have stimulated any particular action by UNESCO. The way in which UNESCO chooses which sites to take action on remains idiosyncratic - the feeling can't be avoided that it rather likes targeting democratic "rich" countries undertaking 21st century development whilst ignoring far more damaging failures in less high profile cases!