United Nations Foundation Calls on World Heritage Committee and Country Governments to Help Preserve our Endangered World Heritage Sites
Statement by Erika Harms, Executive Director of Sustainable Development
Washington, DC — June 30, 2008
“At the 32nd World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec City this week, the health of 60 potentially endangered sites including the Galápagos Islands, Machu Picchu, and Virunga National Park will be discussed. World Heritage sites, both manmade and natural, have withstood the test of time for hundreds or even thousands of years. Yet some sites face imminent threats from external factors such as armed conflicts, climate change, and uncontrolled tourism.
World Heritage sites belong to all of us and it is vital to protect these sites and their natural and cultural heritage. Heritage is our legacy—our gift to future generations. The local communities living in and around these places depend on the destinations for their livelihoods.
It is imperative that the Galápagos Islands and Virunga National Park remain on the endangered list and receive the attention and support needed to care for the sites. Thirty years ago, the global community committed to protecting the Galápagos, the first inscribed World Heritage site. We need to uphold our commitment to preserve the islands and keep them safe from invasive species and uncontrolled tourism. Perhaps the most horrifying example of the impact of conflict on threatened sites is occurring in Virunga National Park, the oldest national park in Africa and home to around half of the 700 mountain gorillas left in the world. Civil unrest and armed conflict from the mid-1990s to today have devastated the Democratic Republic of Congo and placed Virunga’s wildlife and the site rangers in jeopardy.
We urge the World Heritage Committee to recognize the threatened sites and to encourage countries to do their part to save our sites in danger. If country governments, the tourism industry, global partners, local communities, individuals and the United Nations all work together, we can protect and preserve our world’s greatest treasures for future generations to experience and enjoy.”
About the UN Foundation
The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support United Nations’ causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the United Nations. Through new and innovative public-private partnerships, advocacy and grantmaking, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Amy DiElsi, United Nations Foundation