After a two-week meeting in Russia, UNESCO announced that twenty-six new sites are being added to its World Heritage List, including first-time entries from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Arab states. The committee met in St. Petersburg from June 24 to July 6. It added five sites to its “natural” class, one to its “mixed” class (includes natural and cultural elements), and twenty to its “cultural” class. The new additions bring the List to a total of 962 properties in 157 countries.
Sixteen of the twenty-six new sites are not in North America or Europe, demonstrating UNESCO’s efforts to recognize underrepresented geographical areas. New sites include: a series of interconnected lakes in Chad, a national park in Congo, Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, the colonial town of Grand Bassam in Cote d’Ivoire, and Xanadu in China–capital of the Mongolian emperor under Kublai Khan.
In addition to being designated World Heritage sites, several of locations were also added to UNESCO’s “Danger” list. The committee made the controversial decision to add the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem–said to be built on Jesus’ birthplace–to the World Heritage List, as well as to put it on the “Danger” list, as the church is in desperate need of repair. Additionally, sites in northern Mali were added to the “Danger” list due to desecration of tombs in Timbuktu. Islamists from Ansar Dine, the rebel group that seized control of northern Mali and Timbuktu in May, have systematically attacked several mausoleums in the region, including the tomb of Muslim scholar Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar. In response, the committee condemned the destruction of the sites and placed Timbuktu and the 15th century Tomb of Askia in the nearby city of Gao on its list. The committee also appealed to Mali’s neighbors to help prevent illicit trafficking of artifacts, including the country’s extensive collection of manuscripts. Additionally, the committee urged UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, to create a fund to help conserve Mali’s cultural heritage and called upon similar organizations to contribute.
Source: The Art Newspaper