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The Hagia Sophia is widely considered to be one of the most important buildings in the history of architecture as well as the history of religions, and indeed of world history at large. It was the last monumental building of antiquity and the biggest building of the world at its time.
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PRESS RELEASE

on the occasion of World Environment Day

EMBARGOED UNTIL FRIDAY, 5 JUNE 11:00 a.m. CEST

World Heritage Watch Report 2020 alerts to tourism and mining as increasing threats to the world heritage

Mining remains a major threat to UNESCO's World Heritage sites but is increasingly joined by tourism, according to a new report issued by World Heritage Watch, a global network of more than 170 NGOs, indigenous peoples and civil society activists who monitor sites on the ground.

While some sites in Siberia such as the Forests of Komi and the Altai Mountains have been of concern for years, new plans for uranium mining have been reported near the Grand Canyon and in southern Greenland, and a Venezuelan activist group has uncovered devastating gold mining in Canaima National Park, one of the world's gems for biodiversity and harbouring Angel Falls, the worlds highest. Although UNESCO has a No-Go-Policy in place for mining in World Heritage sites, this is often ignored or evaded by its member states following their perceived national interest.

Meanwhile, tourism has grown to an extent that it is becoming an increasing factor of threat to UNESCO's World Heritage, and often promoting tourism, not protecting the site, is now the motivation for seeking inscription in the World Heritage List. While visiting the sites is expressly encouraged, there is a risk that World Heritage status will morph from an instrument of protection to a factor of threat.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, World Heritage sites were particularly affected by the excesses of overtourism because they are preferred tourist destinations due to their importance and attractiveness. Tourist numbers skyrocketed as soon as sites were inscribed in the World Heritage List, and the large numbers of visitors quickly collided with the particularly strong protection requirements of the World Heritage sites. The phenomenon no more affects only well-known places such as Venice and Machu Picchu but also remote ones such as Lake Ohrid in Northern Macedonia and Hampi in India. The advocacy network now calls for using the worldwide standstill in tourism to rethink this development, and requests UNESCO to adopt strict guidelines for tourism planning before new sites are inscribed in its prestigious list.

World Heritage Watch provides information to UNESCO unreported by its member states in order to help the agency having a more comprehensive assessment of the real situation at the sites under its tutelage, and take more appropriate decisions to eliminate threats. Since its founding in 2014 it has earned a reputation with UNESCO to be the global voice of civil society in World Heritage matters.

Berlin, 4 June 2020

PRESS RELEASE

on the occasion of World Environment Day

EMBARGOED UNTIL FRIDAY, 5 June 11:00 a.m. CEST

Lockdown is a Much-Needed Opportunity to Rethink World Heritage Tourism

World Heritage Watch Report 2020 alerts to tourism as an increasing threat to the world heritage

Tourism is becoming an increasing factor of threat to UNESCO's World Heritage, and promoting tourism, not protecting the site, is often the motivation for seeking inscription in the World Heritage List. The German NGO World Heritage Watch, which coordinates a network of about 170 civil society groups around the globe, is calling to use the global collapse of tourism caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to rethink the role of tourism in world heritage sites.

Visiting the sites is expressly encouraged, but there is a risk that World Heritage status will morph  from an instrument of protection to a factor of threat. This is indicated by the World Heritage Watch Report 2020 which has been released today. In a full third of all cases included in the report, tourism development is the direct or indirect reason that the site could end up on UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in Danger List.

World Heritage Watch calls on UNESCO to adopt strict and binding criteria for sustainable tourism at World Heritage Sites, and to make them a condition for new inscriptions on the World Heritage List. Education, encounters with the local population, and the experience of heritage as something held in common must not be given up. Local communities must be empowered to perform with dignity their role as guardians of the sites and to convey the intangible heritage associated with them.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, World Heritage sites were particularly affected by the excesses of overtourism because they are preferred tourist destinations due to their importance and attractiveness. Tourist numbers skyrocketed as soon as a site was inscribed in the World Heritage List, and the large numbers of visitors quickly collided with the particularly strong protection requirements of the World Heritage sites.

The phenomenon no more affects only well-known places such as Venice, Machu Picchu or the Taj Mahal, but also remote ones such as Lake Ohrid in Northern Macedonia, Hampi in India, or the Kamtchatka peninsula of Eastern Siberia.

Berlin, 3 June 2020

18.04.2019

Today on International World Heritage Day we want to express our gratitude to the fire fighters of Notre Dame who risked their lives in order to save a priceless heritage for all of us. At the same time we would remind that there are hundreds and thousands of people around the world who give everything they have to protect and safeguard World Heritage sites at their places and who very seldom receive a word of gratitude or other support. We want to thank them all - the activists who protest against neglect and deliberate destruction, the rangers at national parks who shield wildlife from poachers with their own bodies, the private owners whose pride it is to give an example of heritage protection, and the uncounted citizens who volunteer to maintain places and whose small donations mean more of a sacrifice to them than big amounts to many others.

As civil war is intensifying in Libya, more World Heritage sites may get lost forever. Please support the brave men and women in the neighbourhood of Libyan World Heritage sites who guard those sites from being pillaged and destroyed by invading militias. They risk their lives as much as the fire fighters of Notre Dame, and they deserve to be recognized as much.

Please donate through www.world-heritage-watch.org or in the US through our fiscal sponsor www.globalheritagefund.org, earmark "Libya".