4 January 2018 -- The New Year has hardly been rung in when St. Kitts & Nevis officials met to kick-start plans for the Federation’s participation in UNESCO’s cultural heritage programme, focused on acquiring expertise from, and leveraging its influence at, this UN specialized agency in Paris.
On a quick visit to the Federation on 3 January last, Dr. David Doyle, the St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to UNESCO, based in Paris, met the two key UNESCO cultural heritage officials on island, Mr Percival Hanley, General Manager of the Brimstone Hill UNESCO heritage site, and SKN representative to the World Heritage Committee and Mr Antonio Maynard, Secretary-General of the St. Kitts & Nevis National Commission for UNESCO.
The discussion covered the upcoming presence of Mr. Hanley at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, between 30 June to 10 July, 2019, in Azerbaijan.
St. Kitts & Nevis was nominated back in November 2017 as a member of the most prestigious committee in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, at its 21st General Assembly of the States' Parties to the World Heritage Convention.
Ambassador Doyle noted that the Federation will be seizing this occasion to spearheaded its efforts to solidify its presence and unique place on the World Heritage Committee, which reviews all new heritage inscriptions, decides on the budget priorities to support heritage activities across the world, and in doing so, secure heritage management expertise and experience to enhance preservation activities at Brimstone Hill, the Federation’s single world heritage site approved in 1993.
The world heritage committee will also be called upon to vote in new members to the World Heritage Committee, in conformity with the Rules of Procedures of the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.
The current composition of the World Heritage Committee comprises some 21 States' Parties to the World Heritage Convention, including: Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Mr Percival Hanley, who already represented the country at the last world heritage committee in Bahrain in 2018, stated that “this is an unique opportunity for a small island developing state like St. Kitts and Nevis to gain insights and expertise in our continuing efforts to preserve, improve and promote the Federation’s proud cultural heritage site and contribute to policy-development on this august body.”
Another topic discussed by Messrs Doyle, Maynard and Hanley was the prospect of the Federation hosting a major training workshop in spring 2019 on the development of cultural heritage tourism (CHT) policies for the entire Caribbean region. This would enable cultural heritage experts from each state to integrate CHT dimensions into the tourism promotional activities associated with their world heritage sites. Ambassador Doyle had already signaled to the world heritage programme Secretariat in Paris its keen desire to be one the first Caribbean states to avail of tailored cultural heritage tourism expertise provided by UNESCO experts, financed by a dedicated fund-in-trust from the Japanese government.
According to Mr Maynard, “our presence and active participation in the UNESCO world heritage committee greatly enhances the potential provision of expertise from more experienced and larger UNESCO member states with indelibly strong cultural heritage backgrounds as we prepare the ground for the listing of historical sites in and around Charlestown to the world heritage list in the future”.
At a broader strategic level, St. Kitts and Nevis will be positioning itself over the next three years of its mandate on the world heritage committee to promulgate the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) cultural heritage agenda. The Federation will be the only SIDS Member on the Committee after Cuba stands down this year.
It has been widely acknowledged that (SIDS), which include the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean, are the under-represented in terms of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and concerted efforts need to be made to raise awareness of this situation.
The St. Kitts and Nevis delegation on the Committee will be relying on
the Caribbean Action Plan for World Heritage initially spanning the period 2004-2014 and readjusted and extended to cover the period 2015-2019, as a basis for addressing this under-representation of the region.
Currently, out of some 1073 properties on the World Heritage List as of November 2017, only 22 are located in the Caribbean region. The most prominent world heritage sites are in Barbados, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, Cuba, Antigua, St Lucia and Dominica, with 20 properties on the tentative list in the region.
Noted Mr Percival, “St. Kitts and Nevis will be leveraging its voice on the world heritage committee to raise the awareness as to the potential for further growth in the number of World Heritage Sites in Caribbean region. Providing technical assistance and expertise, and extra-budgetary funding, will be sought to support these ambitions”.
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