The new coordinator of the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme says the World Heritage Convention has "not been applied anywhere close to its full potential for marine ecosystems." Today, there are just 35 World Heritage sites - out of a total of nearly 900 worldwide - that have been identified and protected specifically for their marine values. The lackluster coverage of marine sites has not been helped by the fact that funding for the Marine Programme dried up three years ago, leaving it without oversight.
Now, however, a new funding partnership has helped renew the program and offers possibilities it has not had before. Fanny Douvere, the new coordinator for Marine World Heritage, says the program is well-positioned now to develop and carry out a solid strategy, including designation of new marine sites, strengthening of management capacity for existing sites, and better outreach. "I believe we can substantially enhance ocean protection through the World Heritage Convention and simultaneously improve the management of places already listed," says Douvere. The Convention, adopted in 1972 by UNESCO, seeks to protect the world's most important natural and cultural heritage.
"Tides of Time"
The new three-year funding partnership, called "Tides of Time", involves a luxury watchmaker and a newspaper. "The objective of the partnership among the Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre, the International Herald Tribune, and the World Heritage Centre is to increase protection of marine World Heritage sites," says Douvere. The partnership provides both annual financial support and communication coverage for the World Heritage Marine Programme. The private companies gain from association with some of the most beautiful ocean places in the world. "The partnership provides benefits for all three partners," says Douvere.
Now it is up to the Marine Programme to take advantage of the opportunities the partnership provides, says Douvere. Her strategy has three goals:
- Strengthen the credibility of the World Heritage List through support for nominations in marine areas that are currently under- or unrepresented (i.e., in the Middle East, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean) and through global studies, in cooperation with IUCN and others, that assess marine ecosystem types currently not protected under the World Heritage Convention;
- Strengthen capacity-building and conservation efforts through initiatives to improve the exchange of good practices among site managers; and
- Strengthen communication and outreach - including to society as a whole - of the potential of the World Heritage Convention to improve marine conservation and help toward achieving various international conservation targets.
"Achieving these goals will be challenging, but not impossible," says Douvere. She says it will require expanding the cooperation already existing among national governments, international organizations and their regional offices, NGOs and their networks, and universities that support the Marine Programme's mission. The Marine Programme website is http://whc.unesco.org/en/marine-programme.
For more information:
Fanny Douvere, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris, France. E-mail: f.douvere [at] unesco.org