World Heritage regional consultation process takes off in Central Asia

Representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan confirmed their commitment to support the identification of natural sites that have the potential to be nominated as World Heritage. IUCN will lead the process in its capacity as the official Advisory Body on nature under the World Heritage Convention.

Central Asia is one of the recognised biodiversity hotspots in the world that provides crucial ecosystem services for human life. In 2005, IUCN and the World Heritage (WH) Centre published the thematic study for Central Asia (CA), identifying a number of sites with higher potential for the nomination. More than 10 years later, a follow-up journey has been initiated upon the request of the WH Committee, on 19-20 June in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic, to draw a roadmap for the preparation of a regional thematic study to identify sites with potential for future inscription on the WH List and assist the five Central Asian countries in improving the nomination process.

The first consultative workshop was co-hosted by IUCN ECARO and the National Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic for UNESCO, and engaged the experts of four CA countries as well as the representatives of international organisations active in the region. “The variety of topics that were covered during the workshop facilitated exchange of experience and significantly increased the ability of the participants to develop  the WH nominations in the five countries of Central Asia, all being State Parties to the WH Convention,” said Sabira Soltongeldieva, Secretary-General of the National Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic for UNESCO.

Natural World Heritage sites are recognised as the planet’s most important protected areas, providing life-supporting benefits to millions of people worldwide. There are three natural sites inscribed on the WH List of Central Asia: (1) Western Tien-Shan, a serial and transnational site between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, (2) Saryarka-Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan and (3) Tajik National Park (Mountains of The Pamirs).

Currently, there are 17 natural and six mixed sites inscribed on the Tentative Lists of the five countries. „The number of sites inscribed on the Tentative Lists has remained constant over the years with no recent updates. As the Advisory Body to the WH Committee, IUCN stands ready to provide upstream support to countries to make a critical review of potential new WH sites and contribute to the WH process with quality nominations in the future,“ said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Experts from Central Asia, IUCN and international organisations will continue to work on the new Thematic Study for Central Asia aiming to help the State Parties in the region reach the highest standard in identifying sites with WH potential and preparing new nominations. The Study findings will be presented at the 43rd WH Committee Session in 2019.

The World Heritage regional consultation process is initiated within the project funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry's Advisory Assistance Programme (AAP) for environmental protection in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and other countries neighbouring the European Union. It is supervised by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the German Environment Agency (UBA).

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