UNESCO provides new guidance set to help reduce impacts from development on World Heritage sites
On July 29th 2022 UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee issued new guidance for assessing impacts from projects that could potentially affect the planet’s most precious heritage places. Designed specifically for heritage management institutions, governments and project developers, it aims to help find the best possible solutions to meet both conservation priorities and development needs. You can read more about it here.
Although this is a step in the right direction to mitigate the impacts sites recently have been facing as a result of various forms of development, including urbanisation, tourism infrastructures, dams, roads, power plants and other major interventions I wonder how this will impact the existing 130+ world heritage sites. Let’s explore for example the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo Unesco World Heritage Site.
Paramaribo is a former Dutch colonial town from the 17th and 18th centuries planted on the northern coast of tropical South America. The original and highly characteristic street plan of the historic centre remains intact. Its buildings illustrate the gradual fusion of Dutch architectural influence with traditional local techniques and materials.
Protection of the about 250 listed monuments of Paramaribo was initially guaranteed under the 1963 Monuments Act. In 2002 this Act was replaced by a new Monuments Bill (S.B. 5 September 2002 No. 72) which provides for the designation of protected historic quarters with controls over interventions and provision for subsidies to owners for conservation works. In 2007 and 2010 two new monuments were added to the monuments list of Paramaribo and in 2011 the list was further enlarged with another 25 official monuments.
Unesco funded, through the UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021 a total amount of USD 23,000 for the project “Management Plan for Paramaribo” in 2010; and USD 125,362 provided for the project “Inner City of Paramaribo. Phase I & II” from 2005 to 2008 (UNESCO/Netherlands Funds in Trust).
The rest is left up the the local government and in Suriname this isn’t an easy endeavor as one can tell from the latest reports. Unesco writes in it’s most recent report:
“It is unfortunate that the State Party has not made any progress in the extension of the boundaries of the property to include a 50-metre strip along the river – which is even more relevant and urgent in light of the Waterfront development – nor in the extension of the buffer zones. Therefore, the State Party should be urged to complete this process following the procedures established for a Minor Boundary Modification.”
Without proper funding for sites like the one I described in Paramaribo Suriname, why does Unesco even grant the status of World Heritage site?