A DECISION made in Cambodia this month by the United Nation’s World Heritage committee could add 172,000 hectares of forest to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Federal Minister for the Environment Tony Burke was seeking to have the deal sealed without proper scrutiny, in particular by using a loophole in the UN guidelines to label it as a “minor” modification. But this plan to rush through the extension in support of the Tasmanian forest peace deal hit a major hurdle when a key UN adviser, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) recently rejected the proposal as ‘minor’ and recommended that the nomination be ‘referred back’ to Australia to enable full and proper consultation.
The draft decision is at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2013/whc13-37com-8B-Add-en.pdf
But what the final outcome will be is unclear. It is understood that the Australian government and the environmental NGO’s will be sending delegations to lobby individual committee members to overturn the recommendation to ‘refer back’ the nomination.
Such a refer-back would enable a proper assessment of the extension and allow a change in the new Federal Government after 14 September to examine all the facts. The decision of the World Heritage Committee will be watched with interest, and a web cast of proceeding will be available to see the UNESCO delegates in action at http://www.whc37cambodia2013.kh/news/press/01/42.html
The World Heritage Committee’s recommended position next week at its meeting in Cambodia will be to send this nomination back to the state party (Australia) on the basis of concerns in relation to aboriginal heritage, management and consultation. As a mixed property that has both cultural and natural values, any proposed extension must be considered by two advisory groups, ICOMOS on cultural, and the IUCN on natural values. Cultural values include both indigenous values going back 40,000 years as well as early European settlement.
Despite the ICOMOS finding, however, and the World Heritage Committee recommendation, the IUCN has recommended the extension proceed while acknowledging it is over a 12% increase and that it includes areas not contiguous with the existing boundary.
Confusing. Yes! But such is politics at the UN.
Only last year did the IUCN describe a 10% extension the absolute upper limit for a minor boundary adjustment, it also claimed that any adjustment involving mining must not be considered as ‘minor’.
“A notional cut-off of 10% increase has generally been considered to be the absolute upper limit for a modification to be considered via the “minor modification” process, considering the Operational Guidelines clearly define such modification as having a minor impact on the extent of the property.” see http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2012/whc12-36com-inf8B2-en.pdf stated on Page 75.
Having two recommendations from its advisers that include opposite recommendations should make this UNESCO committee cautious of accepting such a controversial nomination.
ICOMOS concerns were related to the failure to properly consult the aboriginal community, the Government appears to have not only ignored the aboriginal leadership, but new neighbours represented by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.
This is the second in a series of blog posts, the Part 1 can be found at http://jennifermarohasy.com/2013/05/undemocratic-politics-again-determines-land-use-in-tasmania-alan-ashbarry/