On October 12, the Trump administration announced that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency responsible for the designation of World Heritage Sites. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has issued a public statement that decries this decision. In the statement, AIA president Thomas Vonier advocated for the World Heritage Sites program, which is important to architects because it "seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind." He also noted that UNESCO had recently partnered with the International Union of Architects on a new project to select an annual World Capital of Architecture. This project, he argued, makes UNESCO's mission to support architectural heritage all the more critical. "The AIA urges the Administration to lends its support to this initiative," he concluded. UNESCO–short for the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization–protects over 1,000 sites of architectural, natural, and cultural importance. Once selected, World Heritage Sites are demarcated and protected as landmarks. The United States is home to 23 of these sites, including the Statue of Liberty, the San Antonio Missions, Independence Hall, and Yellowstone National Park. The Trump Administration chose to withdraw from the global initiative citing "the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias" as its reasoning. The bias mentioned is likely in reference to UNESCO's recognition of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site earlier this summer. With Hebron's addition, Palestine now hosts three World Heritage Sites (all of which are considered endangered by UNESCO), as compared to the nine in Israel (none of which are). The United States has not been able to vote in UNESCO procedures since 2013, when the Obama Administration cut funding for the organization. This cut was in direct reaction to UNESCO's recognition of the first World Heritage Sites in Palestine. The U.S. government hasn't entirely separated themselves from the organization. Instead, they plan to adopt the role of a "non-member observer state" in continued engagement with UNESCO. In this capacity, they will remain involved only to offer American perspectives on the organization's undertakings. The withdrawal takes full effect on December 31, 2018.
Posts tagged with "World Heritage Sites":
What do Safranbolu, Turkey; Gyeongju, Korea; Cidade Velha, Cape Verde; and Philadelphia, PA, have in common? They are all World Heritage Cities. On November 6, the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) honored Philadelphia with a World Heritage City designation. Philadelphia is the first United States city to be recognized by the OWHC. The mayor's office and city leaders have been advocating for World Heritage City designation since 2013. Philadelphia has the requisite historical chops: UNESCO named Independence Hall, where 18th century diplomats wielded pens over multiple founding documents, a World Heritage Site in 1979. In order to qualify as a World Heritage Site, a place or building must meet at least one of ten selection criteria. The selection criteria require a site to have a historical, political, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, or natural attributes of "outstanding universal value" to humankind. Though UNESCO plays no role in designating World Heritage Cities, OWHC stipulates that a World Heritage City must have at least one UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its 13th annual gathering, the OWHC acknowledged Philadelphia's political significance, voting to include the city in their pantheon of over 266 heritage cities at their latest meeting in Arequipa, Peru. Benefits accrue to member cities. Through the OWHC, municipalities can share information on how to protect their cultural assets and promote heritage tourism. Mayor Michael Nutter hopes that the designation will increase investment in the city and strengthen its (already lucrative) heritage tourism sector. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and an OWHC designation brings visibility to a city's heritage, and encourages travel to chosen sites. Sites are sometimes damaged, however, when designated cities lack the tourism infrastructure to support the increase in visitors. Critics have also called out the OWHC's list for its profound Eurocentrism. Though Philadelphia is a Western city, it does have the capacity to support increased tourism that the World Heritage City title may engender.
World heritage sites in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria are being bombed by the militant group ISIS. The 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin and Temple of Bel in Palmyra, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, have allegedly been destroyed by the terrorist group. Images featuring the explosion posted through social-media accounts in affiliation with ISIS depict the bombings. The destruction of these ancient temples follows the public execution of Khaled al-Assad, age 82, a scholar and keeper of Palmyra and Syrian antiquities at the hands of ISIS militants on Tuesday, August 18. According to an Associated Press report in the Los Angeles Times, a UNESCO official said the removal of these monuments is the "most brutal, systematic" destruction of historic sites since World War II. ISIS has also targeted other ancient sites including St. Elian Monastery and its 5th century tomb, the report added. UNESCO has called these demolitions war crimes. In late August, the group struck again at the Temple of Bel. The Guardian reported on August 30 that the group made the claim over social media. The structure was built in 32 AD. After gaining control of the city early March 2015, ISIS' commander in Palmyra, Abu Laith al-Saoudy, was reported stating that it was the group's intention to preserve and leave unharmed the historic city of Palmyra. "What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”
UNESCOitalia: Italy’s World Heritage Sites in the Works of 14 Photographers Mueso Italo Americano Fort Mason Center, Building C San Francisco December 6 to January 26, 2014 In celebration of 2013: The Year of Italian Culture in the United States, the Museo Italo Americano, in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco, will be showcasing a collection of images of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites as seen through the lenses of 14 prominent Italian photographers. To be proclaimed a World Heritage site, a number of criteria must be met, and the site must hold outstanding universal value by means of exceptional design or cultural significance to a group or civilization. As of June 2013, Italy has 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which is more than any other single country in the world. The traveling show will be on display at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco from December 6, 2013, to January 26, 2014. Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Claudio Bisogniero, describes the exhibition as, “A journey in pictures, bringing the Italian wonders to the United States. Fine art photography for a fascinating exhibition: a visual adventure across the length and breadth of our country.”
At its 37th session held from June 16 to 27, 2013 in Phnom Pehnh and Siem Reap-Angkor, Cambodia, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added 19 sites to the World Heritage List. The new additions bring the list to 981 noteworthy destinations. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of exceptional universal significance and satisfy at least one out of ten selection criteria, which are frequently improved by the Committee to reflect the advancement of the World Heritage notion itself. The following cultural sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. · Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, Qatar · Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora, Ukraine · Bergpark Wilhemshöhe, Germany · Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China · Fujisan, Japan · Golestan Palace, Iran · Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India · Historic Centre of Agadez, Niger · Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong, Korea · Levuka Historical Port Town, Fiji · Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany, Italy · Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Canada · University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia, Portugal · Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region, Poland & Ukraine · El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Mexico · Mount Etna, Italy · Namib Sand Sea, Namibia · Tajik National Park, Tajikistan · Xinjiang Tianshan, China