Sharjah Institute for Heritage participates in 40th World Heritage Committee meeting

SHARJAH, 20th July, 2016 (WAM) — Sharjah Institute for Heritage, SIH, participated in the proceedings of the 40th edition of the World Heritage Committee, WHC, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 10th – 20th July. SIH participated as part of a wider group making up a dedicated UAE delegation.

WHC meetings seek to outline and enforce world heritage preservation, exchange expertise and knowledge, research various ways to achieve advanced standards of conservation, and discuss the addition of new sites to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation had announced prior to the committee convening, that this year’s agenda would include discussions on the nomination of the new sites, as well as updating delegates on maintenance works being undertaken on existing heritage sites.

Abdulaziz Almusallam, Director of the Sharjah Heritage Institute, said, “It was our pleasure to participate in the meetings of the 40th World Heritage Committee, on behalf of both Sharjah Heritage Institute and as part of a wider UAE delegation.”

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee holds annual meetings and consists of the representatives of 21 countries appointed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It is the role of the WHC representatives to study proposals submitted by countries that wish to officially document their heritage sites on UNESCO’s world list.

They also help experts to submit reports on the legitimacy of sites and provide the final assessment on the nominations. The committee is the sole authority for taking such decisions.

The committee’s methodology for choosing a new site is carried out in consultation with three non-governmental or inter-governmental organisations. These are: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an advisory body to the committee for the selection of natural characteristics of world heritage; the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an NGO providing advice on the evaluation of cultural properties; and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property.

On the sidelines of the 10-day meeting, in Istanbul, Almusallam praised the efforts of the concerned UAE institutions and authorities for their contributions to the preservation of world heritage, adding, “The preservation of antiquities and sites of historical interest demonstrates that humankind, despite its varying cultures, politics and nationalities, can ultimately find a bond and unite around global values such as heritage conservation.”

“On the other hand, when an international heritage site, anywhere in the world, is destroyed, we all, as the human species, suffer the loss,” he added.

Almusallam explained that the WHC annual meeting does not only discuss the conditions for new nominees, it also highlights human rights and values, as well as the treatment of ruined heritage sites, in order to restore confidence and recovery towards a better future.

He further indicated that there are heritage sites in the world that have been, and are still, subjected to destructive attempts and attacks against the history, identity and values of embedded in human history. In highlighting these situations, Almusallam called for collective action in order to protect our common world heritage.

At this year’s meeting, the WHC discussed the nomination of 27 sites, including nine natural sites, 14 cultural sites and four “mixed” sites, sites of both natural and cultural interest. The committee updated the delegates on the maintenance of 108 sites currently listed, in addition to the 48 sites that are included on the list of vulnerable world heritage sites.