According to Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, of the 82 World Heritage sites in the Arab region, 17 are in danger. She was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee that took place on Sunday at the Bahrain National Theatre in the presence of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain. It marked the beginning of the Committee’s work, which will continue until 4 July.
Ms Azoulay observed that sites today are facing numerous threats such as armed conflict, illicit trafficking, rapid urbanization and climate change. The Director General went on to say that “Across Iraq, over 100 cultural heritage sites have been destroyed, many of which are in Mosul,” and she recalled that “Last February, UNESCO launched an initiative to Revive the spirit of Mosul, in partnership with the Iraqi authorities.”
“It is significant that this year the Committee is being held in an Arab country,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, who reminded participants that at the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage has its roots in the campaigns to safeguard the Egyptian sites of Abu Simbel and Philae.
The Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Lee Byong-hyun, said that “the World Heritage Convention, as UNESCO’s most universally recognized normative instrument, is a remarkable example of how collaboration among nationals through education, science and culture can be put into practice through common effort.”
During the session, the Committee will examine 29 nominations for inscription on the World Heritage List which includes the cluster of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in Fort and Marine Drive heritage precincts of Mumbai. The Committee will also examine the state of conservation of 157 sites already inscribed on the List, 54 of which are on the List of World Heritage in Danger. One site will be examined with the view of its deletion from the World Heritage List: Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Uzbekistan).