8-9 July 2016 - The International NGO Conference for Civil Society (via World Heritage Watch) gathered more than 30 NGOs from around the world in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss UNESCO World Heritage properties under threat from irresponsible and unsustainable development.

During the NGO conference, multiple challenges related to Natural and Cultural properties were discussed – including: the increasing threats to Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania; Western Caucasus; Wrangel Island in Russia and others. There are already 48 properties identified on the ‘List of World Heritage Properties in Danger’, including  - Everglades National Park (United States); Virunga National Park (DRC); Garamba National Park (DRC); Kahuzi-Biega National Park (DRC); Okapi Wildlife Reserve (DRC); Salonga National Park (DRC); Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Madagascar).

There are multiple anthropogenic threats to these listed World Heritage sites –  (including industrial activity, causing the most dramatically and visible consequences, and increasingly climate change). Irresponsible and unsustainable economic development continues to threaten the viability of natural heritage properties. The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is an example of a World Heritage Natural property under irresponsible economic development threats that was discussed during the NGO Conference.

As a result of ongoing discussions, participating NGOs developed multiple resolutions for further consideration by State Parties and the World Heritage Committee. The NGO Conference resolved a WHI (World Heritage International) proposal to progress more effective protection of World Heritage properties by revising the World Heritage Convention operating guidelines via the inclusion of the ‘precautionary principle’.  WHI will also deliver an official proposal - directly to the State Delegations during the 40th Session of the World Heritage Committee - to include the precautionary principle within the operating guidelines.

The Director of World Heritage Center, Mrs. Mechtild Rössler, emphasized during her initial presentation the important role of civil society in protecting World Heritage properties. She expressed a readiness to develop further mechanisms for civil society participation in the World Heritage conservation processes. WHI strongly supports this World Heritage Center perspective and in its intention. WHI believes that revising the World Heritage operating guidelines via the inclusion of the precautionary principle will progress further civil society participation in the effective protection of World Heritage properties.

The Conference audio records are available here:

Mrs. Mechtild Rössler initial presentation 

Answers and questions session (part I)

Answers and questions session (part II)

Answers and questions session (part III)


11 July 2016 - Update of NGO Conference at the 40th Session of the World Heritage Committee - Istanbul, Turkey