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World Heritage Committee must consult indigenous peoples before nomination of new sites!

June 24 2011
World Heritage Committee 35th session

IWGIA calls to defer World Heritage nominations of sites in Indigenous peoples’ territories if it cannot be ensured that the Indigenous peoples have been adequately consulted and involved and that their free, prior and informed consent has been obtained

Of the 890 places designated as World Heritage sites under UNESCO's 1972 World Heritage Convention as of February 2010, a significant number are situated in the territories of indigenous peoples or areas over which indigenous peoples have rights of ownership, access or use.

These sites are located in many different parts of the world and on all continents. It is estimated that there are roughly between seventy and a hundred such sites. The vast majority of them are inscribed as “natural sites”, with no reference to indigenous culture or the existence of indigenous peoples in the justification for inscription.

At its 35th Session which is currently taking place in Paris (19-29 June 2011), the World Heritage Committee is considering several nominations of sites that are located in Indigenous peoples’ territories.

These include (among other sites):
- Western Ghats (India);
- Trinational de la Sangha (Republic of Congo / Cameroon / Central African Republic);
- Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (Kenya).

All 3 of the mentioned sites are nominated under natural World Heritage criteria alone, without giving due consideration to the Indigenous cultural values connected to these areas and Indigenous peoples’ roles as stewards of these places.

Moreover, all of the mentioned nominations were prepared without meaningful involvement and consultation of the Indigenous peoples concerned and without obtaining their free, prior and informed consent.