A toe tapping start

26 July 2010 | Article

As day one at the World Heritage Committee draws to a close Tim Badman, Head of IUCN´s World Heritage Programme finds that things, so far, things have largely gone smoothly and with a strong emphasis on nature. The opening ceremony took place in the spectacular theatre in Brasilia to set the event off to a loud and toe-tapping start.

The Committee is rather a contrast to the music, with a room of over 500 people listening avidly to presentations and interventions, and getting down to the business of discussing the Committee's decisions. At least one window looking over a lake near the centre of Brasilia.

It is the first of the six committees I have been to that is still on time at the end of the first day of discussions. No wi-fi connections so trying not to think of the ever-mounting backlog of email. Constant rush outside the meeting... breakfast with Thailand, Japan and Australia, lunch meeting with China, and this evening Russia … before an escape to eat downtown.

Our Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre opened our contribution to to the 34th session, presenting our work from the last year. A historic moment of solidarity with our two fellow advisory bodies with the DG of IUCN sharing the podium with the DG of ICCROM, Mounir Bouchenaki, and the President of ICOMOS, Gustavo Araoz.

Responses from the States expressed a lot of appreciation of our work, and looked for more guidance on World Heritage nominations, and welcomed our new work in Africa. Other highlights were a lunchtime feature on the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme – lots of potential for links, and a debate looking to bring sustainable development more fully into the World Heritage Convention.

How can we make an approach work that will be relevant to natural and cultural sites? Tomorrow the serious business of discussing sites included on the List of World Heritage in Danger begins … assuming that time keeping stays on track.