The extended 45th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee will take place in Riyadh between September 10 and 25 and is expected to include several new heritage sites qualified for addition to the World Heritage List.
According to the Committee's agenda, proposals will be examined to add 50 sites to the World Heritage List, including 37 cultural sites, 12 natural sites, and two sites of mixed significance.
The World Heritage Site Managers' Forum will convene on the sidelines of the Riyadh meeting.
Managers and persons working within World Heritage site management systems from across the globe will participate in this year's Forum, aimed at continuing to empower World Heritage site managers on the international stage.
It aims to expand beneficial networking opportunities, facilitate the exchange of expertise and knowledge to preserve shared human heritage, and review techniques for site development.
- Climate Disruption: An Existential Threat to Heritage.
However, a pressing issue looms large.
UNESCO's Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, pointed out that climate disruption poses an existential threat to world heritage.
According to the organization's reports, there is a pressing need for the provisions of the World Heritage Convention, ratified by 195 countries, to address impending challenges.
Last July, the hottest month ever recorded, witnessed coastal erosion due to flooding. Yet, global heritage protection efforts have achieved notable successes.
A UNESCO and IUCN assessment of the status of species reveals that UNESCO World Heritage sites harbor over 20 percent of mapped global species richness within just one percent of the Earth's surface.
During her meeting in Riyadh with around 3,000 participants in the heritage and antiquities sector, Azoulay mentioned that UNESCO has dispatched teams to countries recently affected by harsh climatic conditions, such as Madagascar, Pakistan, Cuba, and Peru, for assessment and preparation for reconstruction.
The Heritage Emergency Fund supports the missions, said Azoulay, emphasizing that the world needs to be better prepared, noting that every manager of World Heritage sites will receive training on climate adaptation strategies by 2025.
- How Are Heritage Sites Evaluated?
The World Heritage List comprises 1,157 heritage sites spread across 167 countries of various categories, including cultural, natural, and mixed areas.
The World Heritage Committee meets once a year and consists of representatives from 21 of the states parties to the Convention elected by their General Assembly. It is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention, defining the use of the World Heritage Fund, and allocating financial assistance upon requests from states.
It has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List and examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks states parties to act when properties are not adequately managed.
It also decides on the inscription or deleting properties on the List of World Heritage in danger.
The selection criteria of the Committee ensure that the site represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and exhibits an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world.
It must also bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization that is living, or which has disappeared or be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble, or landscape that illustrates a significant stage in human history.
As for natural sites, they must contain the most significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
- Youth Forum Enhances their Role in the Sector
Seminars and workshops discussing heritage topics and challenges are held within an international forum hosted by Saudi Arabia. The aim is to advance the role of young professionals in the heritage sector, paving the way for a promising generation of specialists in the field.
The outcomes of the Forum are set to be presented as a youth declaration at the extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh.
For approximately ten days, while visiting heritage landmarks in Saudi cities rich in architectural heritage and human legacy, the Forum explores opportunities for professionals and specialists.
It delves into the impacts of climate change, digital dimensions, and the promotion of diversity and sustainable tourism intersecting with human heritage worldwide.