Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Task Team Report: Realizing The Future We Want For All

In this report, the UN System Task Team lays out a vision for transformative change towards the future we want. The report was prepared to inform the open and inclusive consultations that are taking place in preparation for an ambitious development agenda beyond 2015..


Enormous progress has been made towards achieving the MDGs. Global poverty continues to decline, more children than ever are attending primary school, child deaths have dropped dramatically, access to safe drinking water has been greatly expanded, and targeted investments in fighting malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis have saved millions.

The MDGs are making a real difference in people’s lives and, with strong leadership and accountability, this progress can be expanded in most of the world’s countries by the target date of 2015.

After 2015, efforts to achieve a world of prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity and peace will continue unabated.

The UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs and carry on with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda.

At the September 2010 MDG Summit, UN Member States initiated steps towards advancing the development agenda beyond 2015 and are now leading a process of open, inclusive consultations on the post-2015 agenda. Civil society organizations from all over the world have also begun to engage in the post-2015 process, while academia and other research institutions, including think tanks, are particularly active.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has established a UN System Task Team to coordinate preparations for beyond 2015 and to support the work of a High-level Panel that the Secretary-General will appoint to advise him on the post-2015 agenda. President Yudoyono of Indonesia, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom have accepted the Secertary-General's invitation to co-chair the High-level Panel.

The post-2015 agenda will reflect new development challenges and is linked to the outcome of “Rio+20” -- the UN Conference on Sustainable Development -- that took place in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

UNESCO contributed to the report. Check the UN website providing a number of resources related to the task force report.

The Economist on UNESCO's World Heritage Program

The Economist magazine has published an article (July 18th 2012) on the UNESCO World Heritage Program. I quote extensively from the article:

As of this month, the following unlikely mixture of people and agencies found themselves tarred with the same brush: Liverpool City Council, the developers and municipal authorities of Panama, the Islamist rebels of West Africa and the quarrelsome bishops of some ancient Christian churches in the Middle East. They all bear a share of responsibility for the fate of places that have recently been deemed by UNESCO to be “World Heritage Sites in danger”. 
During its latest annual gathering, which ended on July 6th, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (a rotating group of 21 member states) also added 26 new places to the list of locations it considers to have “outstanding universal value” to humanity. The total now comes to 962. It then named five places as “World Heritage Sites in danger”—a label that can either imply solidarity with a country, or a rebuke for poor conservation. This year’s additions to the danger list consisted of Liverpool’s old harbour area, which is said to be imperilled, at least aesthetically, by a giant construction project; two early European settlements in Panama which face a similar challenge; and the tombs and shrines of Mali which have been ruthlessly targeted by an army of zealots professing a puritanical form of Islam....... 
(T)here are no easy ways to maintain heritage sites in relatively poor countries; it requires delicate balancing acts, much local diplomacy and long-term engagement, according to organisations that work in that field. Even a well-functioning state, be it democratic or authoritarian, will fail to conserve monuments unless local people see an interest in maintaining their heritage and using it rationally, says Vincent Michael, new chairman of the Global Heritage Fund (GHF), based in California. The effort will collapse if cultural heritage is seen either as a pesky impediment to making money, or as something to be exploited for short-term gain. Nor should local economies ever be too reliant on tourism, which can fall as rapidly as it rises.
I also wanted to share this photo of a beautiful structure shielding a site newly added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

From 2006 to 2010, Global Heritage Fund supported conservation and community development at Çatalhöyük, one of the largest and best preserved Neolithic sites found to date.  Two years later Çatalhöyük has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Church of the Nativity - a World Heritage Site

Church of the Nativity

National Public radio did a story a story about the Church of the Nativity, which you can listen tohere
The Jerusalem Post offers an op-ed piece here. Jonathan Zimmerman offers a particulary interesting piece from the American perspective in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which you can read here.
Earlier in the week there was a brief flurry of news reports about extremists calling for the destruction of the Pyramids at Giza, but since then it has been revelead that the source for this news was a hoax.
Yesterday Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to protecting and preserving special places reflecting cultural and natural heritage by announcing a $200,000 U.S. grant for the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang during a stop in Laos.  

Repairing heritage site in Timbuktu in 2005

Saturday, July 07, 2012

World Heritage Committee Meeting Business

Timbuktu sites and their damage
The 36th Session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has been quite controversial.

1) Under a great deal of controversy and against the recommendations of preservation experts and religious leaders, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was inscribed to the World Heritage list under an emergency provision. Palestinian officials have already stated they intend to expand use of the World Heritage program. You can read U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion's statement about the Church of the Nativity here. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's reaction can be seen here along with an opposing viewpoint from the editors of Bloomberg News here
2) In Mali, a faction called Ansar Dine, which seized control of Timbuktu last week, have attacked some of the World Heritage sites in that city despite international outcry. You can read more details here. UNESCO's statement can be found here, and a reference to a U.S. statement can be found here.
3) During its meeting in St. Petersburg the World Heritage Committee designated 26 new sites (including the one in Bethlehem) to the World Heritage program. You can see the full list here.