Every year, nominations are proposed by States Parties to be inscribed on the World Heritage list. These nomination dossiers have to include a comparative analysis to highlight the value of the proposed site compared to existing sites already inscribed on the List. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the official advisory body on nature under the World Heritage Convention. Every year it evaluates nominated candidate sites under natural criteria and recommends whether or not these sites should be inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, due to the differences in technical capacity and other factors, the comparative analyses provided by the State Parties are not always performed using a consistent methodology that accurately reflects the comparative values of the nomination. As a result, these biases can undermine the scientific credibility of nominations, and may unfairly influence the outcome of IUCN recommendations.
UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has been working closely with IUCN to provide technical support since the early days of the World Heritage Convention. In particular, for sites nominated under so-called biodiversity criteria, the Centre provides an independent comparative analysis to help inform IUCN’s advice regarding the possible inscription of new natural sites. The methodology was developed by the Centre and IUCN to utilise the best available global datasets and published literature, and can be downloaded here. This information is regarded as extremely useful by IUCN’s World Heritage Panel, who is responsible for formulating the official recommendations of IUCN to UNESCO.
Historically, UNEP-WCMC was tasked with compiling World Heritage information sheets, which are concise descriptions of natural sites nominations, which have now been archived as records at the time of inscription and can be accessed here. Building on the success of these datasheets and the annual comparative analysis, the Centre also contributed to the development of several of IUCN’s thematic studies on World Heritage, aiming to provide guidance on future nominations of both terrestrial and marine natural sites.
More recently, our World Heritage work, in partnership with IUCN, has expanded to encompass a wide range of topics in support of the assessment of new nominations, the monitoring of existing sites, as well as upstream capacity building and research on natural World Heritage, particularly in relation to the biodiversity gaps on the World Heritage List. Regarding monitoring, the Centre collaborates with IUCN to deliver innovative geospatial solutions to support the effective monitoring of natural sites. These include introducing GIS and remote sensing capacities to enhance IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook assessments. Initiatives are also being developed to seek to identify forest loss within World Heritage sites, as well as changes in human footprint and land cover over time.
Our team combines biodiversity knowledge and advanced GIS expertise to provide support to IUCN and the World Heritage Convention.
Elise Belle is the focal point for all World Heritage related work at UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre. She leads the annual comparative analysis for sites nominated under biodiversity criteria on the World Heritage List.
Yichuan Shi, seconded from IUCN’s World Heritage Programme since 2011, maintains the spatial database for all natural World Heritage sites, and leads the development of geospatial solutions.
We work in direct collaboration with the IUCN World Heritage Programme, with funding from UNESCO through IUCN for the comparative analysis, and an IUCN secondment, Yichuan Shi, who is supported by the MAVA foundation.