World Heritage Nomination at a Glance: Benefits to a Nation and Society

About Eritrea - History & Culture

The preparation of a World Heritage nomination can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding of experiences for the parties involved. Developing a World Heritage nomination involves a process that takes time and effort. Several questions are posed by people from all walks of life on the subject as to how the journey is pursued and how this process benefits countries. This article looks into how a successful nomination is possible and how such a process benefits a nation and society.

The preparation of a World Heritage nomination is rooted in the principles embraced in the World Heritage Convention of 1972, an international treaty between Member States of the United Nations which seeks to identify, protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value. The processes of nomination and inscription of properties on the World Heritage List are at the core of the World Heritage Convention, and are a critical responsibility for State Parties to the Convention. In this respect, countries that are signatory to the Convention are entitled to submit their nomination dossier to the World Heritage Committee, which eventually decides whether or not to include a Heritage property in the World Heritage List. The preparation of a nomination provides a State Party with the opportunity to present a Heritage property to the international community. This opportunity on the other hand presents a State Party with the responsibility to carry out necessary activities key for a successful World Heritage Nomination endeavor.

Guided by the Operational guidelines embraced in the World Heritage Convention State Parties pursue this practice. The journey of the preparation of Nomination to the World Heritage List begins with the preparation of Tentative Lists. This first step allows a country to make inventory of its important natural and cultural heritage sites located within its boundaries and are considered to be cultural and/ or natural heritage of potential outstanding universal value. In this respect, the preparation of Tentative List is a useful resource for a state party to develop a nomination process. The Tentative List includes properties that a State Party may decide to submit for inscription in the next five to ten years and, accordingly, is a good planning tool for nations to indicate potential future inscriptions in the World Heritage List.

Subsequent to the preparation of a Tentative List and selecting properties from it, a State Party eventually plans when to present a nomination dossier for a particular property. The State of Eritrea, for instance, has included the Asmara Heritage Property’s Tentative List in March 2005 and eventually submitted the Nomination Dossier for the Asmara Heritage to the World Heritage Centre in February 2016.

The preparation of a Nomination Dossier in itself is a long procedure as it involves several packages aimed to produce a comprehensive document adequate to inscribe the Heritage property in the World Heritage List. Central to the preparation of the Nomination dossier is the quest for the statement of the Outstanding Universal Value. The Outstanding Universal Value is defined as cultural and/ or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. This concept is the main focus of Nomination and a clear definition of the statement of the Outstanding Universal Value that allows State Parties to delineate their Heritage Properties and be placed within the wider global themes of nature and culture. The process of preparing Nomination Dossier allows a country to critically review the known values of a property and assess its relationship to global natural and cultural themes in order to locate the property in the broad conception of natural history, human history, culture and development. In this way the encounter of local practice of Cultural Heritage is balanced with Universal philosophy and gaps and strengths are identified to be bridged and enhanced. The preparation of Nomination Dossier allows countries to use the available local expertise and resources in an effective way.

The identification of adequate local expertise and their inclusion in multi-disciplinary encounter allows incorporating different perspectives in the prepared dossier. The establishment of a multi-disciplinary team for adequate inventory, research and documentation of the elements of the Heritage Property is, therefore, key to the preparation of a comprehensive Nomination Dossier by the State Parties. Local experts also find the process of preparing the Nomination Dossier as an opportunity to work with international consultants, experts and advisory bodies, which is deemed important in the planning process. The complexity of the preparation of Nomination Dossier necessitates the selection of an effective local team. For many properties, the nomination process provides the first opportunity for such people to collaborate as a group. The nomination process requires the property to be considered from many different standpoints such as science, history, archaeology, landscape, conservation, management, social structures, tourism, planning, business, development and regulation. When these activities are well integrated in the nomination, it is significant to construct a dialogue between the various parties who can represent these aspects. The appreciation of local values in the window of universal outlook can thus be made comprehensively in as much as providing a comprehensive dossier incorporating the development of the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value within the nomination dossier required for the evaluation process by International Advisory bodies and the World Heritage Centre.

Relevant evaluation of technical requirements as well as the protection and management mechanisms are also part of the complex process. This process allows countries to identify key stakeholders that should be involved in the management process of Heritage properties and, more importantly, to engage and support local communities in these pursuits. The adequacy of the property´s protection, conservation and management are evaluated and improved in as much as the Heritage Properties are placed within the wider global themes of nature and culture. In this respect, the clear indications of good physical (clear boundaries and buffer zones) and legal protection mechanisms for the Heritage Property and associated management tools contribute to a successful Nomination Dossier.

Once a Heritage Property is inscribed in the World Heritage List after successful presentation of Nomination Dossier, the State Party and the local community are presented with an opportunity to celebrate their Heritage Properties as one of the most important natural and cultural places on Earth. Nomination in the World Heritage List then ultimately stimulates international interest and cooperation to ensure the protection of the Property as the Property becomes a flagship for the national protected area.

Eritrea has a rich and unparalleled cultural and natural heritage. These elements have values and significance that transcend national boundaries. The efforts to inscribe elements of Eritrea´s Heritage in the World Heritage List have taken years and the recent inclusion of the Asmara Heritage in the World Heritage List bears a witness to the commitment of the people and government of Eritrea. Given the complexity of the Nomination process, the Asmara Heritage sets the bench mark for similar pursuits in the future. The process is long but often rewarding when planned realistically. Lessons of realistic pursuits can be drawn from the Asmara Heritage, and future efforts to include the heritage resource of Eritrea in Tentative lists and eventually to the Nomination process need to be sought accordingly.

A column prepared in collaboration with the Eritrea’s culture and sports commission