The 35th World Heritage Committee

Opening of the World Heritage Committee

 The 35th World Heritage Committee was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from June 19 to 29. The Committee was originally to be held in Bahrain, but the venue was changed two months prior due to anti-governmental protests in Arab countries. Unlike usual committee meetings, no opening ceremony was conducted and there were no excursions to sites. There appeared to be fewer participants than usual because the Committee limited the number of delegates from parties other than Committee Members.
 The Committee placed 25 properties, including 3 natural, 1 mixed, and 21 cultural heritage properties, on the World Heritage List. The Advisory Bodies (ICOMOS and IUCN) had recommended the inscription of 12 items, but this number doubled as a result of discussion among the Committee Members. There are four levels of recommendations from the Advisory Bodies, and second from the lowest is “deferral of inscription.” Ten properties that had been deferred were inscribed on the List. The lowest level of recommendation is “not to inscribe” a property, and the recommendation was made to not inscribe the architectural work of Le Corbusier, which includes the National Museum of Western Art. However, the Committee decided instead to defer inscription. Since last year, recommendations from the Advisory Bodies have tended to be overturned by the Committee, and this year that tendency was even stronger. State Parties to the World Heritage Convention have complained about the lack of transparency in the process of finalizing recommendations from the Advisory Bodies, but some Committee Members said that the flood of decisions disregarding the opinions of specialists would damage the credibility of the Convention.
 Political conflicts also emerged regarding properties that had already been inscribed or that were to be inscribed on the List. As an example, the Preah Vihear Temple located on the Cambodian-Thai border was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008. Since the inscription, armed conflicts have erupted between the two countries because of the unclear border demarcation near the temple. During the Committee session, Thailand announced its intent to withdraw from the World Heritage Convention because they were unsatisfied with the lack of information on plans to manage the site and the lack of transparent decision-making. Opposition arose as to whether to discuss or to avoid discussing issues involving Kosovo and Serbia and Israel and the Arab states.
 Ogasawara Islands and Hiraizumi, both properties nominated by Japan, were inscribed on the World Heritage List. During the discussion, the chairperson of the Committee expressed condolence to the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami. The inscription of these properties should have a beneficial effect on the recovery of stricken areas.

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